Published February 5, 2015
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This book has two titles Burnt Paper Sky and What She Knew. It has caused some confusion as many (including me) thought it was two different books by the same author.
Anyhow, I don’t care if it has 67,562 names, I am just glad I came across it and that I read it. It was a phenomenal read that I read in just a few sittings.
Rachel Jenner and her eight-year-old son, Ben and their dog are taking a walk though Bristol Park. This is something they often do together. Ben asks if he can go ahead a bit on his own, Rachel says yes and off he goes. After a short time Rachel calls for Ben and he doesn’t answer. As she searches for him she starts to panic, in only moments her worst fear, any parents worst fear has happened….
Ben has vanished.
Immediately everyone begins to search for Ben but to no avail. Police are called in and search parties are sent out. When the dog comes back alone and there’s still no sign of Ben everyone starts to realize that Ben has not just gotten lost somewhere in the woods.
Where is Ben?
A press conference is organized where Rachel is to appeal for help in finding Ben. However, Rachel doesn’t follow the script she’s been given. It’s meant to be non-threatening, to humanize the situation. She feels that the words are too tame and submissive. She tries to read the script but then suddenly changes her mind. Instead she speaks aggressively and threatens that she will hunt down whomever has taken Ben and make them pay. Rachel assumed that people watching would understand that she was a mother who just wanted her child back. Unfortunately the public doesn’t see the terrified and worried mother.
“They see a freak show. I frightened people because I was someone to whom the worst was happening, and they turned on me like a pack of dogs.”
After the press conference, Rachel is treated horribly both by the public and the press. Many indicate that she must have had something to do with Ben’s disappearance. It’s awful how judgemental we can be when something like this happens, although of course in some cases judgement is well deserved. But it seems that we often judge a parent for being either overprotective and too controlling or too easy and/or uninvolved.
The story is told from alternating points of view. Rachel’s and Detective Jim Clemo. As well there are therapists reports, blogs, online identities and comments, facts from missing children guides, newspaper articles etc. interspersed throughout the novel. Some are fictitious but some are from real resources from papers and websites. For example www.missingkids.com, “When Your Child Is Missing: A Family Survival Guide” and many more.
There was a whole lot more going on in this novel, all of it kept me very interested. A lot of good characters that were not only part of the case but had their own interesting story-lines. Detective James Clemo, the family liaison Officer Emma Zhang, Rachel’s sister Nicky and more.
I thought that the author did a fantastic job of portraying how differently people could react in this situation. I may have done some of the same things that a few of the characters did. Emotional and gripping I couldn’t stop reading.
I wanted to know what happened to Ben.
When my daughter was younger I had nightmares about something like this happening. Paranoid of all kinds of things. Who am I kidding? I am still paranoid and hover over her in my helicopter. Joking aside I know she can’t live in a bubble and has to gain independence in order for her to have a successful life. But as I watch her grow it’s still scary! When you hear these stories both real and fiction about a parent looking away for a moment and their child disappearing it makes you want to put your kids back in the bubble.
In my opinion this was an amazing debut psychological thriller. I am absolutely looking forward to more from Gilly Macmillan.
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for my honest review.