“What She Knew”
I should apologize now. I don’t know what happened when I picked out these Winter books. Two of the five have to do with horrible things happening to children! I can’t even watch Dateline!
However, I will preface this book review with two things. First, the short to the point review – READ IT! Second, a spoiler on the status of the child so you can know going in whether or not you want to read “What She Knew.”
The spoiler begins after the picture below – you were warned!
Yep, you can read the book and know the kid does not die. That being said it is really well written and definitely worth reading!
How Could She?!
If you have children you know at some point they want independence and it is usually well before you are ready to give it to them. You agonize. You go back and forth with yourself. You do not want to be a helicopter-mom but you want them completely safe. Always.
This is exactly the conundrum that Rachel Jenner faces on a walk in the woods with her young son. He is eight and wants to run ahead to a swing they visit regularly. It would be out of sight. For how long was never entirely clear but it was long enough. She acquiesces and by the time she reaches the swing Ben is gone.
The story progresses by rotating through three well-written points of view. The first is the mother, Rachel. We follow how she reacts and the missteps she makes in the public eye. Reading her is easy for any mother. Her reactions seem justifiable. Anyone who loves something more than themselves can easily empathize and relate to her range of emotions.
The second is the police investigator in charge of the case, DI Jim Clemo. We first meet him as he is required to seek counseling after the conclusion of the case. Which certainly sets up certain expectations. What could cause a seasoned detective to have anxiety attacks and mandatory therapy?
The third perspective is told through notes from DI Clemo’s therapist, Dr. Francesca Manelli. It’s not a true POV as it is just her notes, but there is enough of another “voice” there to warrant her inclusion. There are a few spatterings of web pages and news articles as well.
Nitpicking an Excellent Book – Because it is a Review!
“What She Knew” is well paced. It is not a classic page-turner but it is so interesting following the procedural and delving into each psyche that you want to keep reading. The story throws in enough suspects and reveals enough secrets to keep you guessing right up to the reveal.
I found this to be one of the best novels I have read in recent months. I enjoyed nearly everything about it, even the end – that some may say is unbelievable – or, perhaps unrealistic. But, ending are hard and Macmillan did her novel justice. The novel reads very much like a movie so I would not be surprised to see it adapted.
My only real issue is I felt the psychiatrist/ counselor character completely unnecessary. I do not think anything “revealed” in those sessions could not have been handled by some sort of introspection by DI Clemo. And, while I enjoyed having a police perspective – it was well-written and gave a lot of insight into the case from the procedural side – I do not think DI Clemo was the most interesting character to garner that insight from.
In the end, he is not around when they find Ben. Nor did his work even lead to finding him. In fact, he often chased down wrong leads and made several calls that did not pan out. But, nothing seemed egregious enough to warrant the type of anxiety or breakdown that he was being treated for. He did not have a real connection with Ben or even his mother, Rachel. If he had anxiety about the case I suppose it was from his own shortcomings but that seems a bit selfish.
I would have really preferred to the police perspective to be from his boss, DCI Corinne Fraser. Her backstory seemed very interesting and she ran the case like a total pro. However, since the publication of this novel the title as had the tagline added: Clemo Book #1 (as Macmillan revisits him in her third novel), so perhaps there is more to him and some of the things he reveals in his sessions that go unresolved or do not really seem to connect to this story. Perhaps.
Survey Says: Read It!
Other than my pesky quibbles, “What She Knew“ is brilliantly written and delves deeply into the emotions and motivations of all sides of a high profile abduction case. It should absolutely be on your “to read” list!
5 Facts About the Author: Gilly Macmillan
- This novel, “What She Knew,” represents her own worst nightmare, “the thought that one of my children might go missing and I wouldn’t know what had happened to them…” (Source)
- “What She Knew” incorporates the online world of social media and commenting, but at the time of publication, Macmillan did not use social media at all. (Source)
- She collects ceramics. (Source)
- Her son Max is an actor on Call the Midwife. (Source)
- Macmillan is not an author that plots. She starts with an idea and works out all the details as she writes. (Source)
When you are done reading this novel check out our other books that made the