Sunday, 10 January 2021

What She Knew

Finished January 5
What She Knew by Gilly MacMillan


This suspense novel is a parent's nightmare. Rachel Jenner is walking with her son Ben and his puppy on the wood trails near their home, when he asks if he can run ahead to the playground area. It's not far, and she's been trying to support the 8-year-old in different ways after the breakdown of her marriage, so she agrees. But when she gets to the playground, neither he nor the dog are there. She calls and backtracks and panics and finds help in the parking lot with another parent she knows and people immediately start a search as she contacts the police and then her ex-husband. But Ben isn't found. 
The book is told from three perspectives. One is Rachel's, one if the policeman put in charge of the case, and one is from a psychologist working with the young policeman on his issues following the case. 
Rachel is supported by her older sister, who drops everything to come help, and by a friend who works in journalism (although not news-focused). She also comes together in a new way with her ex-husband, a pediatric surgeon, and his new wife. As she goes over her steps on that day and in the last few months, following her divorce, she also must deal with the guilt of being the one that let him stretch his wings when this terrible thing happened. 
There are also outside judgements that influence the situation. A blog insinuating Rachel's guilt and more starts up, and every aspect of her life and behaviour is questioned, even some that she wasn't aware of before. This situations makes her question who she can trust.
For Jim, the police officer, a year after the case, he is a good cop with a lot of issues. He feels guilt for not resolving the case quickly and positively, for missing subtle clues he feels he should have caught, for following leads that turned out to be dead ends, for the actions of other police he trusted. Jim has insomnia and it and the feelings he has are affecting his work, to the extent that he is compelled to see the psychologist and talk about what is going on with him, something he is resistant to do. 
The psychologist's notes from their meetings with Jim are the third point of view. They contain not only the transcript of the meetings, but also observations on Jim's attitude and nonverbal behaviours. 
This book is a tense read, as we bounce back and forth between Jim's story, his issues a year later, and Rachel's anguish as she waits for word about her son, desperately trying to help in whatever way she can.
We see how our lives can distract us from the current moment, how easy it is for people to judge those they don't know, how trust can be broken so easily and gained with much difficulty. how our views of those around us don't always show us the whole picture. An engrossing read. 

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