What She Knew

What She Knew

4.4 35
by Gilly Macmillan

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In her enthralling debut, Gilly Macmillan explores a mother’s search for her missing son, weaving a taut psychological thriller as gripping and skillful as The Girl on the Train and The Guilty One.

In a heartbeat, everything changes…

Rachel Jenner is walking in a Bristol



In her enthralling debut, Gilly Macmillan explores a mother’s search for her missing son, weaving a taut psychological thriller as gripping and skillful as The Girl on the Train and The Guilty One.

In a heartbeat, everything changes…

Rachel Jenner is walking in a Bristol park with her eight-year-old son, Ben, when he asks if he can run ahead. It’s an ordinary request on an ordinary Sunday afternoon, and Rachel has no reason to worry—until Ben vanishes.  

Police are called, search parties go out, and Rachel, already insecure after her recent divorce, feels herself coming undone. As hours and then days pass without a sign of Ben, everyone who knew him is called into question, from Rachel’s newly married ex-husband to her mother-of-the-year sister. Inevitably, media attention focuses on Rachel too, and the public’s attitude toward her begins to shift from sympathy to suspicion.

As she desperately pieces together the threadbare clues, Rachel realizes that nothing is quite as she imagined it to be, not even her own judgment. And the greatest dangers may lie not in the anonymous strangers of every parent’s nightmares, but behind the familiar smiles of those she trusts the most.

Where is Ben? The clock is ticking...

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Marilyn Stasio
There's a depressing sameness to mysteries about missing children. A detective is bound to become obsessed with the case, one of the frantic parents is sure to come under suspicion, and there's only a 50-50 chance the child will be found alive. The British writer Gilly Macmillan introduces some smart variations on the theme in her debut mystery, What She Knew
Publishers Weekly
British author Macmillan alternates between two narrators in her haunting first novel: Rachel Finch, a grieving mother whose eight-year-old son, Ben, disappears from the Leigh Woods in Bristol 10 months after her husband left her for another woman; and Det. Insp. James “Jim” Clemo, who tirelessly searches to find Ben. Rachel can’t forgive herself for letting her son run alone in the forest, and Jim blames himself for not solving the case sooner. In the aftermath of the investigation, Rachel learns disturbing things about her past and comes to the painful conclusion that she can trust only a few people in her life. Meanwhile, Jim suffers from severe depression that leads to acute insomnia and panic attacks, causing his department to mandate counseling sessions. The suspense intensifies as suspects are ruled out, and the media relentlessly pursue Rachel for negligent supervision of her son. Readers will have a tough time putting this one down. Agent: Nelle Andrew, Peters, Fraser and Dunlop (U.K.). (Jan.)
“A nuanced, completely addictive debut.”
New York Times Book Review
“Gilly Macmillan introduces some smart variations on the [missing child] theme in her debut mystery...Macmillan enlivens the narrative with emails, newspaper headlines, passages from professional journals, even transcripts from Inspector Clemo’s sessions with a psychotherapist. But her best move is to include vicious blog posts that go viral.”
“Macmillan peppers her debut with subtle red herrings and a variety of potential suspects, ratcheting up the tension slowly but oh so deliciously.”
Reader's Digest
“A terrific debut”
Good Housekeeping
“A very clever, tautly plotted page turned from a terrific new writer”
Sunday Mirror
“Heart-in-the-mouth excitement from the start of this electrifyingly good debut…an absolute firecracker of a thriller that convinces and captivates from the word go. A must read.”
The Daily Mail
“One of the brightest debuts I have read this year - a visceral, emotionally charged story….heart-wrenchingly well told and expertly constructed, this deserves to stay on the bestseller list until Christmas”
Rosamund Lupton
“Every parent’s nightmare, handled with intelligence and sensitivity, the novel is also deceptively clever. I found myself racing through to find out what happened.”
Liane Moriarty
“What an amazing, gripping, beautifully written debut. WHAT SHE KNEW kept me up late into the night (and scared the life out of me).”
Lisa Ballantyne
“Tightly focused and fast-paced. You won’t rest until you really know what happened.”
Saskia Sarginson
“This accomplished, intelligent debut should come with a warning-it’s completely addictive. A nail-biting, sleep-depriving, brilliant read.”
Kirkus Reviews
The search for a missing boy is seen through the split perspective of his frantic mother and the police detective determined to solve the case, despite its deleterious effect on his psychological health. Newly divorced photographer mum Rachel Jenner thought she was giving her 8-year-old son, Ben Finch, a bit of freedom when she let him run ahead during a walk in a Bristol park. But when Ben vanishes, Rachel immediately blames herself, and the media is quick to paint her as a neglectful parent, too. Macmillan, in her debut, leans a bit hard on the "bad mother" trope, one that's been well-trodden in recent fiction, but she creates a compellingly complex investigator in DI Jim Clemo. The narrative is split not only between Rachel's and Clemo's perspectives, but also Clemo's post-investigation sessions with a department-ordered shrink, indicating that however the Finch investigation turned out, it wasn't pretty. As Rachel waits and frets at home, often in the company of her high-achieving older sister, Nicky, who clearly knows more than she lets on, Clemo and his fellow officers, including his secret girlfriend, DC Emma Zhang, whom he perhaps unwisely recommended as Family Liaison Officer for the case, try to piece together a case from a dearth of physical evidence. The requisite family secrets come to light, though Macmillan gets credit for some truly clever red herrings. While there's little new ground broken, the missing child scenario, when done reasonably well, as it is here, is a reliable hook, and with Macmillan's taut pacing, this is an engaging debut.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 1.00(d)

Meet the Author

Gilly Macmillan is the Edgar Nominated and New York Times bestselling author of What She Knew. She grew up in Swindon, Wiltshire and lived in Northern California in her late teens. She worked at The Burlington Magazine and the Hayward Gallery before starting a family. Since then she's worked as a part-time lecturer in photography, and now writes full-time. She resides in Bristol, England.

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What She Knew 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 35 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Really enjoyed this book. Definitely a page turner. Amazed this was writer's first book. NOTE TO B&N: Get these damned kids off the book reviews. This is supposed to be used for reviews NOT FOR KIDS TO CHAT!!!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I had 4 characters pegged befire the total surprise at the end. Kept me up at night longer than I wanted to see what would happen next. Look forward to future books by this author.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I absolutely loved this book! I was hooked from page one. Could not put it down! The story is amazing and engulfed me for days. I felt that Rachel was a dear friend and I could feel her pain. All the characters come alive, it felt like real life drama. The writing is genius, bravo Gilly Macmillan! Can't wait for your next book!!!! Highly recommend this book!
Anonymous 6 months ago
The book hooked right from the beginning. There were many twists and turns. Who abducted the child, the mother, ex husband, his new wife? Who did it? Surprise ending. Read it in one day. Couldn't put it down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was really excited to read this book, but it wasn't as good as I hoped. I felt it was just okay.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very good book !
Anonymous 11 months ago
I enjoyed until the very end. All the sermonizing was tedious. Should have just let the story end.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved to the end
Anonymous 3 months ago
Enjoyed this book very much. It would make a great movie. Very suspenseful.
Anonymous 4 months ago
Lots of twists and turns; kept you guessing
Anonymous 4 months ago
Thus was a beautifully written and believable book. Incredibly suspenseful and insightful. Extremely difficukt to believe it was a debut! Hiram Irizarry
Anonymous 4 months ago
Best book I have read in awhile, looking forward to her next one
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JustJan3 More than 1 year ago
What She Knew by Gilly MacMillan This is Gilly MacMillan’s first novel and I am hoping it won’t be her last. When I complete a novel I try to sum it up on one or two words. What She Knew was Very Good! How would you feel if your small child went missing and you were blamed for it? Would your marriage survive? Would you survive? How would you pick up the pieces to go on living? How would you handle the blame? Join Rachel as she lives the loss and attempts to find her son while shouldering all the ‘What If’s?’. This debut novel by Ms. MacMillan is definitely a psychological thriller. Rachel’s young son runs ahead of her as they are walking a trail in the woods. No worries on her part until she turns the bend, expecting to find him, and realizes he is gone. She turns to those she trusts in hopes of finding Ben before it is too late. She soon realizes this is where the dangers lie; can she trust those she should be able to trust. Is her ex-husband and his new wife involved? Why won’t the police believe everything she tells them? Will Ben be found before it is too late? To answer this question get yourself a copy of What She Knew by Gilly MacMillan. You won’t be disappointed. 01.24.16
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KrittersRamblings More than 1 year ago
Check out the full review at Kritters Ramblings A mystery who dun it, but not your typical one. In the first few chapters a child goes missing as he is out on a walk with his dog and his mom, she is still trying to recover from the separation and divorce from his father and this is just where the story begins. Narrated by both the mother and the lead detective on the case in alternating chapters there are also great tid bits thrown - blog posts, news articles with comments and current dialogue between the detective and his therapist as he reflects on the case. These extra things added to the story, but if you don't love books with extras still try this one as 80% of the book is in usual novel form.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
BookReviewerJoan More than 1 year ago
This is an amazing debut novel. The combination of story line and the way the plot unfolded made for a compelling novel. It is a psychological thriller I thoroughly enjoyed. I am really impressed with this debut offering. The novel is exceptionally well crafted. I enjoyed the way the novel developed, alternating the point of view between Rachel, the mother, and Jim, the lead detective in the case. I often do not like this technique of jumping from person to person but in this book it worked perfectly. There is a continual feeling of suspense in the novel. It is not because of physical danger to Rachel, but because she must somehow prove herself innocent before she is convicted in the court of public opinion. I really felt like I was inside her head, feeling her frustration with the methodical and slow investigation. When Rachel discovers startling facts about those close to her, I felt the same alienation and abandonment she did. The author did an excellent job of drawing me into the character. I thoroughly enjoyed the way the information was revealed, bit by bit. That technique had me turning pages with intensity. The topic of this novel is a hard one. “A stolen child is every parent's worst nightmare...” This intense and suspenseful novel, due to the author's gifted ability to create the reality of the child abduction, is not for everyone. I do highly recommend it for those who enjoy an intense novel full of well crafted suspense. I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel through Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for the purpose of an independent and honest review.
JerseyGirlBookReviews More than 1 year ago
If you are looking for an intense psychological thriller that will keep you sitting on the edge of your seat, then look no further, What She Knew, is the book for you! In her debut novel, What She Knew, author Gilly Macmillan weaves a riveting psychological thriller that follows one mother's worse nightmare: the disappearance of her son, and her desperate search to find him. While walking in the Bristol park one Sunday afternoon, eight year old Ben Jenner runs ahead and out of the eyesight of his mother Rachel, and suddenly disappears. Rachel frantically searches the woods surrounding the park without any luck of finding a trace of Ben. The police begin an intense investigation into Ben's disappearance with very little leads to go on, while Rachel is thrust into the public's view and endures a horrible vilification via the press and social media that leaves her second guessing her judgment as a responsible parent. What really happened to Ben on that fateful Sunday afternoon? What She Knew is a well written and realistically gripping page turner that is told in the alternating perspectives of the mother, Rachel Jenner, and the lead detective investigator, Jim Clemo. From the very beginning, the author easily captivates the reader's attention and draws them in as the story of Ben's disappearance and the ensuing investigation unfolds. The dual perspective storyline is told in a clever way with the inclusion of social media blog posts and comments, newspaper articles, emails, and counselling session transcripts, and interwoven with enough raw emotions, chilling suspense, secrets, surprising twists and turns, and thought provoking intrigue, that easily keeps the reader engaged and guessing what really happened to Ben, and who the perpetrator is from the ever growing list of suspects. The reader will be fascinated by this realistic psychological thriller, it reads like a true crime story where they will experience the full gamut of emotions, and it will leave them completely spent by the stunning conclusion. What She Knew is a cleverly written and stunningly heart wrenching psychological thriller that stay with the reader long after the last word has been read. Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author / publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for my honest review.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago