It’s always nice to receive a bit of book post, and when The July Girls by Phoebe Locke landed in my porch I was quite smiley. I was part of the tour for The Tall Man last year, but never quite got a chance to read the book, so I was determined to make amends. I’m a July birthday gal myself so this book seemed quite appropriate really. The book is out in hardback tomorrow, but before I tell you what I thought, I’d best say thank you to publisher Wildfire Books for sending me the advance copy. Here’s what it’s all about:
About the Book
Every year, on the same night in July, a woman is taken from the streets of London; snatched by a killer who moves through the city like a ghost.
Addie has a secret. On the morning of her tenth birthday, four bombs were detonated across the capital. That night her dad came home covered in blood. She thought he was hurt in the attacks – but then her sister Jessie found a missing woman’s purse hidden in his room.
Jessie says they mustn’t tell. She says there’s nothing to worry about. But when she takes a job looking after the woman’s baby daughter, Addie starts to realise that her big sister doesn’t always tell her the whole story. And that the secrets they’re keeping may start costing lives . . .Available from: Amazon | Kobo | Google Books | Apple Books
What I have loved this year, are the days when I pick up a book and start reading an immediately find myself drawn into the story, so much so that I just don’t want to put it down. It hasn’t happened often this year, my mind hasn’t been able to cope with reading, but when it does it feels like magic. The July Girls by Phoebe Locke was like spending an evening with Derren Brown. Not that I am accusing her of any kind of manipulation or sleight of hand, but the book was pure magic and from start to finish, I was completely hooked. One night read? You bet ya.
Now if you asked me, I’d probably struggle to tell you exactly why. I don’t think there was that ‘one thing’ that I would be able to identify as the hook. It was a combination of factors, a perfect blend of character, story, intrigue, mystery and suspense, coupled with writing which kept me engaged with each and every page turn. And it was a physical page turn this time as I read a physical book rather than an e-version. That in itself is testament to how much I enjoyed the book as I had to wear my glasses for the whole evening too!
The story is a kind of murder mystery, set against the initial backdrop of the seven-seven terrorist attack on London. I say initial as this is only really the beginning of Addie and Jessie’s story. That is the fateful night on which everything starts to change. The night on which Addie begins to have suspicions about her father that she cannot fathom. For every year on seventh July, Addie’s birthday, a different woman is abducted and never found. The killer is cunning and cruel, taunting the police in much the same way that Jack the Ripper used to, providing a moderately less grotesque trophy by way of proof that all the disappearances are linked. But is is really feasible that Addie’s father could be the man that the police have dubbed ‘Magpie’?
Well, if you want to know, you need to read, but believe me when I say that there is good reason for Addie to suspect her father. I really loved the character of Addie. She is a child who acts far beyond her years. Only ten years old when she makes her grim discovery, her young mind leaps to all manner of conclusions, and her sense of right and wrong is severely tested by her sister’s reluctance to take action. Whilst she recognises the right thing to do, she bows to pressure from the person she loves most to forget all that she has seen. Addie is the central focus of the story, with only a handful of scenes that form part of a book which is being written about Magpie taking us away from her point of view. Everything about the way the character is portrayed felt real, authentic, her perspective and her character changing and developing just as she naturally ages throughout the course of the story. No matter what, she retains her sense of right and wrong and makes some major sacrifices to ensure that what she sees as justice is done. Her life is far from perfect, her family life fractured and often balanced on a knife edge, but she has a strength of spirit which, in a child or adult, you cannot help but admire.
The way in which the author has created the bond between Addie and Jessie is almost perfect to read. Forced into a position whereby she has to raised Addie when their mother leaves them, Jessie never really has the chance for a proper childhood. Whereas Addie has clear wisdom, Jessie has a sense of responsibility which overpowers her teenage years. That said, she still acts like a young adult at times, a kind of rebellious streak existing within her that I could easily recognise. I really liked both of the girls, although Jessie makes some very dangerous and questionable choices in her life, a kind of car crash waiting to happen.
This isn’t a fast pace book, the story more reflective than action driven. That said, there are moments of jeopardy, chapters where you can feel the tension building, where the sense of foreboding is quite high and you know that something bad is going to happen but are powerless to stop it. I’d probably guessed part of the truth by halfway through the book, but certainly hadn’t seen the whole picture, not until it was very skilfully painted by the author. It didn’t spoil my enjoyment at all, as I was a) keen to see if my theory as right and b) curious as to at which point Addie would catch up. That and I really wanted to see things come good for her. She was one of those characters I really did want to have a kind of pseudo happy ending, even if it was never possible to be perfect.
If you like a really great psychological thriller, one which creates a heightened sense of tension and anticipation that builds throughout, and one which has a wonderful central character, capable of holding your attention, then I’d definitely say pick this book up. I really don’t know that I can convey all the reasons why you should read it without giving away vital plot points, but the book held my attention completely and if anyone asks ‘should I read this book’, I’d shout yes without hesitation. Top stuff and given all the shinies.
About the Author
PHOEBE LOCKE is the pseudonym of full-time writer Nicci Cloke. She previously worked at the Faber Academy, and hosted London literary salon Speakeasy. Nicci has had two literary novels published by Fourth Estate and Cape, and also writes YA for Hot Key Books. She lives and writes in Cambridgeshire. THE JULY GIRLS follows Phoebe Locke’s debut thriller THE TALL MAN.
Author Links: Twitter