While spending a normal Sunday evening at the local park, Rachel Jenner allows her son Ben to run ahead to the tire swing. Upon arrival at the swing, she finds no trace of Ben. Things escalate when Ben’s clothes are found and the police begin a search to find the missing boy.
What unfolds over the course of the next week quickly evolves into a nightmare not only for Rachel but also for the police officers assigned to the case. Rachel and the police are put under the microscope by social media with every move they make being questioned, debated, and dissected in the court of public opinion. Things aren’t helped when Rachel decides to go off script of broadcast appeal to whomever has kidnapped her son.
At each turn, the pressure builds and builds with the reader knowing the case had negative ramifications for all parties involved. The prologue lets readers in on the fact that something bad happened in the course of the investigation and there were negative outcomes for many of those involved. But just how negative is something that is kept hidden until the final chapters.
Told from the point of view of Rachel, DI Jim Clemo (the lead detective) and notes from Clemo’s therapy sessions following the case, What She Knew ratchets up the tension piece by piece with intriguing revelations about all the parties involved in the desperate search to find Ben. The investigation has some huge consequences for all involved, though in the end, it may be Clemo who gets the worst of it — from putting his trust in the wrong person to falling prey a red herring in the final hours of the investigation.
Gilly Macmillan has crafted a superb mystery/thriller. It’s a cliche to say that the pages flew by, but in this case, the tension, suspense, and overall hope that things won’t be as bad as Macmillan seems to foreshadow helped keep me drawn into the novel and thinking, “Just one more chapter” as I read.
For those of you who worried that something horrible may have happened to Ben, let me put your mind at ease and let you know he survives the kidnapping.
Examining how each of the players in the unfolding drama is made into a victim and the repercussions of that is just one of the most enjoyable aspects of What She Knew. Like Elizabeth George, Laura Lippman, or Michael Connelly, Macmillan isn’t just concerned about solving the mystery, but also in the examination of the impact the crime has on the community. In this case, it’s Rachel, Clemo, and others touched by the case.
The novel also makes me want to go out and find Macmillan’s other novels as soon as possible.
This is the real thing, folks. Give it a try. I think you’ll like it.
Oh, and don’t blame me for a loss of sleep from saying, “Just one more chapter.”