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Burnt Paper Sky: The worldwide bestseller from the Richard & Judy Book Club author

Gilly Macmillan

1 Reviews

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Fiction, Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945), Crime & mystery, Thriller / suspense

The gripping, internationally bestselling thriller from the author of the Richard & Judy Book Club pick The Nanny.

'Amazing, gripping, beautifully written' Liane Moriarty

The nail-biting debut thriller from the Sunday Times and Richard & Judy bestselling author of The Nanny.
Rachel Jenner turned her back for a moment. Now her eight-year-old son Ben is missing.

But what really happened that fateful afternoon?

Caught between her personal tragedy and a public who have turned against her, there is nobody left who Rachel can trust. But can the nation trust Rachel?

The clock is ticking to find Ben alive.


'Kept me up late into the night (and scared the life out of me)' LIANE MORIARTY

'Deceptively clever. I found myself racing through to find out what happened' ROSAMUND LUPTON

'One of the brightest debuts I have read this year' DAILY MAIL

'A nail-biting, sleep-depriving, brilliant read' SASKIA SARGINSON

'Electrifyingly . . . an absolute firecracker of a thriller. A must read' SUNDAY MIRROR
'A very clever, tautly-plotted page-turner' GOOD HOUSEKEEPING
'You won't rest until you know what happened' LISA BALLANTYNE

***Previously published as BURNT PAPER SKY***

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Reader reviews (1)

  • “Can I run ahead?” Burnt Paper Sky is the first novel by British author, Gilly Macmillan. For photographer and single parent, Rachel Jenner and her eight-year-old son, Ben, a pleasant Sunday afternoon stroll in Leigh Woods with the dog goes horribly wrong when Ben runs ahead to the rope swing. By the time she catches up, Ben is missing, and Rachel finds herself in the centre of a mother’s worst nightmare. For DI James Clemo, this high-profile case is an opportunity to prove himself, and he devotes himself to solving it with exceptional vigour. As the investigation progresses and early leads fizzle out, as lies and deceptions are uncovered, and shocking secrets are revealed, Rachel is left wondering just who she can trust. Told about twelve months after the event, the main narrative consists of two strands: Rachel tells the story of what happened on that fateful Sunday, and afterwards, to an imaginary listener (who never interrupts); DI Clemo writes the story as he knows it in a report for his treating psychologist. Supplementing these are transcripts of the sessions James has with the psychologist as well as extracts of internet blogs, Facebook posts, online newspapers and emails. Each chapter is prefaced by quotes from textbooks, journal articles, guides and websites on missing children. Macmillan skilfully conveys the range of emotions felt by the family members of missing children: anger and frustration, guilt, worry, hope and despair. Her depiction of the instant vilification of the mother in the press and on the internet by the public, and the unforgiveable harassment by the media will take some readers back to the Azaria Chamberlain case in Australia. Macmillan also reminds us that the people we often rely on to keep us safe and to find the missing have personal lives of their own that may affect their judgement: they may be as weak and flawed as the rest of us. Macmillan gives the reader a gripping plot with a few twists, characters that are not always what they first seem, and an exciting climax. That she wraps it all is some beautiful descriptive prose is truly a feat for a first-time novelist. “I could smell Ben …on his teddy bear. It was the perfect smell that he’d always had. It was the smell of baby hair that has no weight to it, and of the skin on his temples, which was still velvety smooth. It was the smell of trust, freely given, and a perfect innocent curiosity. It was the smell of our dog walks and the games we’d played and the things I’d told him, and the meals we’d shared. It was the smell of our history together. I inhaled that smell as if it could revive me somehow, give me some answer, or some hope…” “I thought that life should stop until Ben was found. Clocks should no longer tick, oxygen should no longer exchange for carbon dioxide in our lungs, and our hearts should not pump. Only when he was back, should normal service resume” and “she’s brimming with ideas that spill out of her and bounce off in different directions, as if you’d tipped out a basket of tennis balls and suddenly they’re bouncing everywhere at once, their individual trajectories too fast and too random to track” are further examples. This thought-provoking page-turner is an outstanding debut and readers will look forward to more from Gilly Macmillan. With thanks to The Reading Room and Hachette Australia for this copy to read and review.

    Marianne Vincent

    Rated 5
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Gilly Macmillan

Gilly Macmillan is the New York Times bestselling author of What She Knew and The Perfect Girl. She trained as an art historian and worked at The Burlington Magazine and the Hayward Gallery before starting a family. Since then she's worked as a lecturer in photography, and now writes full-time. She resides in Bristol, England.

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