Burnt Paper Sky, author Gilly MacMILLAN

“In the absolute quiet, … I glimpsed the sky above, MacMILLAN_BurntPaperSky
and I could feel darkness starting to push in
as surely as fire creeps across a piece of paper,
curling its edges, turning it to ash.
In that moment, I knew that Ben wasn’t there.”

Ben is the eight-year old son of Rachel, and sole child of her former marriage to John. The lad whom, at his request to be allowed to run on ahead to the rope swing in a glade off the beaten track, she felt she should protect his every moment, then realised she also had to allow him to experience moments of daring–and so she allowed him to rush on.

This novel is told in memories, via interspersed chapters from the point of view of Rachel, notes on child abduction advice found online by Rachel’s sister, and of D.I. James Clemo, the prime investigator of Ben’s abduction case. The case has haunted Jim for a year, and he is ordered to attend sessions with Force Occupational Health Service therapist Doctor.

The novel provides more than only details of the case investigation, movements and possible motives of potential suspects. There are some surprising, even gut-wrenching reveals of Rachel’s family life and upbringing, of John’s marriage, of Jim’s partner in an affair with a fellow investigator.

The strain on Rachel, as she seems always to be caught on camera or film when in a distressed state, leads to a vicious trial by public social media, with news vultures constantly crowding her home, vandalistic attacks on her home, leads her to shut down and retreat.

While suspects are questioned, checked, and released, Rachel reads through Ben’s exercise books from school, and notices something significant to a possible lead, and fights against ‘standard procedures’ to get her thoughts across to James’s team.

Through her self-protective daze–a whirl of confusion– she still manages to pick up a word–one single word which could turn the case completely around. The least suspect person in Ben’s life is apprehended while waiting for a flight out of the country. The child is found, but will not allow himself to tell what has happened to him, leaving us to wonder, and Rachel to wait until he is ready to talk.

This for me was a one day gripper to read…and as it fascinates, it also allows us to review our parenting. Should we protect from possible harm, or encourage possible discovery–which is the better choice for our children?

Piatkus-logoPublisher: Piatkus, via Hatchette NZ

ISBN: 978-0-349-49637-4
Publishing Date 2015

NZ Release Date: February ‘15

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