Book Review: “What She Knew” by Gilly MacMillan

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.

“What She Knew” is the debut novel by Gilly MacMillan (not to mention her most popular book by far) and yet … I found it a few notches shy of its potential.

I discovered Gilly MacMillan through her second book “The Perfect Girl” which I thought was a pretty good mystery. It had a nice twist in the end I didn’t see coming and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

So, of course I’m going to pick up her first book, the one everyone was raving about.

And, well …

Okay so part of the problem may have been my expectations. Based on the title “What She Knew” and how things are shifting in the description, I thought MacMillan was going to make Rachel, the main character, look guilty to US, the reader.

She doesn’t say that precisely in the description, but going in, I thought that was what she was doing.

(Spoiler alert — that didn’t happen.)

While it’s not a bad mystery (unlike “The Perfect Girl,” this one I did figure out) I thought it would have been sooooo much better if MacMillan had played around with our view of Rachel and had us question if she did have something to hide. Not only would it have added a really interesting plot thread, but it would have matched the title better.

Anyway, I’m giving it three stars, as I thought it was a decent but not over the top amazing. (I also would encourage you to try “The Perfect Girl” as I personally enjoyed that one more.)

What She Knew: A solid psychological thriller but a few notches shy of its full potential. My full review here. Click To Tweet

You can grab your copy right here on Amazon:

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2 thoughts on “Book Review: “What She Knew” by Gilly MacMillan”

  1. While I read What She Knew first, instead of the other way around, I agree with your review and thought The Perfect Girl was better (I love those twists near the end). But I rated Macmillan’s book a 4 because as it was her debut, she impressed me enough for me to buy her second book; and not all authors have done that for me! I’ll, most likely, continue to buy her books too, unless she doesn’t entice me any longer, and that would be difficult to do after her first two successes!

    1. Michele Pariza Wacek

      I was actually going back and forth between a 3 and a 4, I probably should have rated 3.5 stars. I think if I had read them in reverse, as you did, I probably would have rated it a 4. I am planning on checking out her other books as well.

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