What She Knew by Gilly MacMillan Review

Posted November 29, 2017 by Asheley in review / 0 Comments

What She Knew by Gilly MacMillan ReviewWhat She Knew by Gilly MacMillan
Series: Jim Clemo #1
Published by William Morrow on December 1, 2015
Pages: 512
Source: the publisher
Narrator: Penelope Rawlins, Dugald Bruce-Lockhart
Length: 12 hours, 2 minutes
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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 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...

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.


I got lost in What She Knew by Gilly MacMillan very early in the story because it hit all of the right places with me as a reader who is also a mother. I could absolutely see myself as Rachel Jenner: a woman who would never hurt her child, completely vilified by the media and the public after her child was abducted from basically right under her nose. SO HORRIFYING.

What She Knew is told in alternating POVs by Rachel Jenner and DI Jim Clemo. Rachel is young Ben’s mother, and as a sidenote she is reeling from a recent divorce and the remarriage of her ex-husband. She is completely distraught and overrun with guilt that he was taken on her watch, to the point that she says and does the absolute wrong things at the wrong times, actually jeopardizing the police investigation. The thing that I love most about her is that she is raw energy and emotion. She is nearly feral in her desperation to find her child. It makes her seem completely crazy in more than one instance in this story, but my gosh: I feel like I would be the same way! I really identified with Rachel in this way, in the way that she seems almost frenzied throughout the book. I understand how Rachel grows to be so distrusting of everyone around her as she finds that everyone has secrets, even little things that they are keeping/have kept from her for one reason or another.

DI Jim Clemo is the detective in charge of the missing child case, and I adore him so. The thing that I love most about him is that he has issues in his personal life that flow over into his work, and this sometimes makes his judgment cloudy. Even though Jim doesn’t want it to, his personal life has the potential to negatively impact the case. Jim feels a huge need to be successful in this case not only because Ben is so vulnerable and is depending on him, but because this is his first chance to lead a really big, newsworthy investigation, and he wants to do a great job. Jim is a great detective, but he makes a few small errors that add up, and then something huge goes wrong in his investigation. I identified with Jim in such a big way because even though his intentions were all pure, sometimes he just couldn’t pull everything together to make it work. Several times, outside factors worked against him, jeopardizing the integrity of his work.

Because Rachel and Jim are two characters on opposite ends of this case, their alternating perspectives were both great throughout the story. There wasn’t a time that I felt bored by one of these perspectives; I never wanted to rush thru one to get to another. (This is a big deal for me, because I usually end up favoring one POV over another in books even when I try not to.) I think the story structure gives us a well-rounded view of what was going on. There are also some blog posts and news articles and notes from Jim’s mandatory therapy sessions sprinkled throughout the narrative — this gives a little extra something to the regular prose — especially since a blog became a large part of the plot as the story progressed into its second half.

I just loved this one. At this place in my life, I really need books that will pull me in early and keep me turning the pages throughout the entire story, and this was one of those books. I was thrilled to already have the audiobook on hand to add to my paperback read because it forced me to listen to the story slowly, at the speed of the narration. I think taking the time to really listen to the story, while holding the paperback in my hands, helped me build this book into a picture in my head.


I bought the What She Knew audiobook a long time ago when Audible had a sale and it has been sitting there in my account, waiting for me to pick up this book. I loved listening to the audiobook while I was following along with my paperback. BBoth of these narrators were new to me, and I loved the way they each brought so much to this story. Their accents made it easy to imagine that they were actually Rachel and DI Jim Clemo instead of narrators reading to me, and I fell easily into the story of this missing boy.

I recently noticed that both of these narrators have returned to narrate The Perfect Girl by Gilly MacMillan audiobook. I’ve decided that I’ll again be listening to the audiobook while I follow along in my paperback when I read this one since I enjoyed the What She Knew audio so much.

Highly recommend.

Title: What She Knew by Gilly MacMillan
Series: Jim Clemo #1
Published by: HarperAudio
Publish Date: 12-1-15
Length: 12 hours, 2 minutes, Unabridged
Narrator: Penelope Rawlins and Dugald Bruce-Lockhart

About Gilly MacMillan

Gilly Macmillan Author Photo

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.


About Asheley

Asheley is a Southern girl. She loves Carolina blue skies, Ben & Jerry's ice cream, and NC craft beer. She loves all things history but prefers books over everything.

You can find her somewhere in North Carolina, daydreaming about the ocean.

Find Asheley on Litsy @intothehallofbooks!


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