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…
The July Girls by Phoebe Locke is an immersive and atmospheric read featuring a strong narrative voice in the form of protagonist Addie. She lives in Brixton, London with her dad and older sister Jessie and times are tough. Her dad works all hours as an illegal taxi driver and Jessie does her best to give Addie a good life, ensuring she is clothed and fed and that her homework is done on time.
The titular July Girls are the women who every 7th July are murdered by an unknown serial killer who keeps a momento from them earning him the moniker Magpie Killer. We learn about these women in chapters dotted throughout the book, chapters which are almost short stories providing deep insight into the characters. These are not faceless women dropped into a book to prop up a plot. They each become living, breathing women with families, careers and friends and their loss feels like a blow to the reader. I really admired this and the respect with which they were written about.
Addie’s 10th birthday falls on 7th July 2005, a day where London was subject to a terror attack and a night where Addie’s dad comes home late covered in blood. When Addie and Jessie find the purse of a woman in their father’s bedroom they track down her husband. He believes his wife has been killed in the bombings and, struggling with his grief and a small baby he allows Jessie to ingratiate herself into his life employing her as his nanny.
This is an exceptional book. Addie is a wonderful character who is written brilliantly. We follow her as she grows from a young girl who is an avid reader and looks at things from a childlike perspective to a young woman whose upbringing has had long lasting effects. I fell in love with her and cannot under emphasise how beautiful the depiction of a girl living in a dysfunctional family is. Set against the backdrop of London’s terror attacks and riots the book feels very real and there is tangible fear in the pages and a pervading sense of menace. I really enjoyed reading a book set against real-life events and it was handled so delicately that it sent chills down my spine.
Contrasted with this are some beautiful explorations of family and family relationships. Addie and Jessie’s relationship with their dad is a difficult one and Jessie bears the brunt of protecting Addie from his temper. Jessie’s boyfriend, Dellar, initially a source of jealousy for Addie becomes a surrogate brother who brings her books, watches films with her and provides a sorely need source of love. But then, their father will return and the mood will change because he is a volatile man and tempers can be easily lost.
This is the sort of crime book that I love. An enthralling plot which took me in directions that I didn’t see coming, well-drawn characters and tender and insightful moments. It is a strong, literary novel which I couldn’t put down. It reminded me a little of Tana French, particularly in the way it explores humanity and relationships and its observation that it is the small things that matter the most. Overall, I highly recommend this. It is an engrossing, entertaining page turner of a book which had me transfixed.
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.
Where You Can Buy It
My thanks to Netgalley and Headline for an advanced copy of the book and to Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for an invitation to join the Blog Tour.