Review: Burnt Paper Sky by Gilly Macmillan

Friday 12 June 2015
Title: Burnt Paper Sky
Author: Gilly Macmillan
Publisher: Piatkus
Publication Date: 5th February 2015
Pages: 480
ISBN: 9780349406374
Source: Review Copy
Rating: 4.5/5
Purchase: Amazon
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.


Burnt Paper Sky is a powerful and emotive read, and one that once I started reading I knew I wouldn't stop until I reached the end. There are some things I think you can never fully imagine unless you are in that situation yourself and one such thing is the disappearance of a child and how that makes a parent feel. In Burnt Paper Sky we meet Rachel a year after her son went missing, when she innocently let him run ahead of her, never to be seen again. In this opening chapter some incredibly descriptive writing really highlights to the reader the pain Rachel felt not only at the time but still in the present day, a pain which will of course never go away until she gets the answers she so desperately wants. We also learn just what led her to so quickly allow Ben to run ahead of her before going back in time to the start of the disappearance.

As well as Rachel we also follow one of the police officers who is consumed by guilt a year on, unable to get over the fact that he has so far been unable to find Ben. Jim is reluctant to attend therapy sessions, and whilst a case like this would have an affect on any police officer, it was clear that something else must have happened to make Jim be so heavily affected by it all and I was completely compelled to read on once we begin to follow his story from the beginning of the investigation. Along with Rachel the pain he feels is palpable. What is clear early on is just how much the investigation into a missing child has an effect not only on the parents, but everybody else involved in the investigation, from the police to the various family members of the child.

We live in a culture where everybody is so quick to judge, and social media and blogs allow everybody to have an opinion and really be quite vocal with it. I'm sure we all have that Facebook friend, or follow that Twitter account of a person that can't go five minutes without giving their opinion about something. The reaction towards Rachel from the public is quite negative, and it reminded me of the reaction towards parents when something like this happens in real life. Alongside following the characters we also get to see things like internet posts, newspaper articles, police evidence, blog posts and comments etc and I found this a different but great way to tell the story.

Gilly MacMillan's writing is nothing short of incredible for a debut novelist, and the atmosphere created just on the first page is brilliant. It completely absorbs you as a reader, immersing you deep within the story and you can forget about the outside world and any plans you might have once you pick up this book. Rather than explaining or describing how her characters are feeling, you get a true sense of just how much pain they are in. In the beginning I had that sick feeling in my gut, my heart was thumping and as I read on it did become a quite difficult, emotional but utterly compelling read. It really puts you through the wringer but really, aren't those the best kind of books to read? In the beginning we have no idea what has happened to Ben, but I was desperate to find out and as difficult as it is to explain why, it soon becomes a quite shocking but ultimately quite believable tale. It highlights just how precious children are, and I imagine parents will read this book and hug their children extra tight.

Burnt Paper Sky is a brilliant mystery, a thought-provoking, addictive and emotional debut that packs one hell of a punch and then some. It is a story you will finish and not forget for a long time. Gilly MacMillan is definitely going to be an (another!) author to watch within this genre, and I very highly recommend this book.


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