The search for a missing boy is seen through the split perspective of his frantic mother and the police detective determined to solve the case, despite its deleterious effect on his psychological health.
Newly divorced photographer mum Rachel Jenner thought she was giving her 8-year-old son, Ben Finch, a bit of freedom when she let him run ahead during a walk in a Bristol park. But when Ben vanishes, Rachel immediately blames herself, and the media is quick to paint her as a neglectful parent, too. Macmillan, in her debut, leans a bit hard on the “bad mother” trope, one that’s been well-trodden in recent fiction, but she creates a compellingly complex investigator in DI Jim Clemo. The narrative is split not only between Rachel's and Clemo’s perspectives, but also Clemo’s post-investigation sessions with a department-ordered shrink, indicating that however the Finch investigation turned out, it wasn’t pretty. As Rachel waits and frets at home, often in the company of her high-achieving older sister, Nicky, who clearly knows more than she lets on, Clemo and his fellow officers, including his secret girlfriend, DC Emma Zhang, whom he perhaps unwisely recommended as Family Liaison Officer for the case, try to piece together a case from a dearth of physical evidence. The requisite family secrets come to light, though Macmillan gets credit for some truly clever red herrings.
While there’s little new ground broken, the missing child scenario, when done reasonably well, as it is here, is a reliable hook, and with Macmillan’s taut pacing, this is an engaging debut.