The July Girls by Phoebe Locke #BookReview #BlogTour

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 . . .

I'm thrilled to be hosting the blog tour for The July Girls by Phoebe Locke today. Huge thanks to the author, Wildfire and Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for inviting me and for my advance copy of the novel.

I loved The Tall Man when I read it last year but I have to say, The July Girls is even better!
Having grown up with two very superstitious parents, I'm used to lone magpies being associated with bad luck but although that's just an old wives' tale, the Magpie in The July Girls is responsible for bringing bad luck every year on 7th July. That's the night he chooses another victim but who he is and what has happened to most of his victims remains a mystery.
Addie's tenth birthday is on 7th July 2005, a day now tragically synonymous with the 7/7 bombings in London. Addie lives with her dad, a minicab driver and older sister, Jessie. It's evident very early in the book that Jessie has been forced to take care of her younger sister from a young age. Their mum isn't on the scene, their dad works irregular hours  and his moods are unpredictable when he is at home. Addie is an easygoing child but nevertheless I couldn't help but feel sorry for Jessie who doesn't seem to have been given much of a chance of a childhood herself. Her relationship with Dellar seems like her chance at having a normal teenage experience and I loved that despite Addie's initial feelings of jealousy, his kind patience wins her trust too (he buys her books and introduces her to Harry Potter - what's not to like?!)
The 7/7 attacks change everything, however, and not only because suddenly the world seems a more dangerous place. I thought Phoebe Locke's description of the responses of young children to the tragedy - tearful fear combined with the urge to share scare stories and impart what facts they have overheard from adults - was absolutely spot-on. Addie knows something is wrong when her dad comes home that night covered in blood. He claims to have intervened in a fight but that doesn't explain why he conceals his blood-soaked jeans. The next day he wears gloves to clean the inside of his car - and then Jess finds a purse belonging to a missing woman in his bedroom.
The families of murderers could also be considered to be their victims too - their lives suddenly changed irrevocably by events they are not responsible for. At such a young age, it's not surprising that Jess and Addie don't know what they should do with their terrible discovery but there can be no denying that their actions are shocking and lead to further misery for several people. This seems to be a case of one poor error in judgement leading to events spiralling further out of control but eventually Addie is forced to make a choice which changes her life forever. It's a testament to the sensitive and insightful writing that whether she was making what I considered to be the correct decision or an unwise move, I was always able to understand her motivations.
Events are mostly seen from Addie's perspective, with a few excerpts from a book written about the serial killer and the occasional chilling glimpse into the twisted mind of the murderer. Spread over several years, The July Girls is a coming-of-age story and is a beautifully written and empathetic look at what it means to grow up under such a terrible shadow. There are lots of telling moments where Addie is very clearly suffering the psychological pressure of dealing with the secrets, lies and guilt for many years. As much as I was gripped by the creepy tension in the book - particularly as it becomes increasingly clear that not all the characters can be trusted - I was also absolutely invested in the sisters' lives and was desperate to discover whether they would find any sort of peace and resolution despite everything that happens.
I've read a lot of books featuring serial killers and The July Girls is an original, compelling look at the subject. I loved that instead of being primarily about the police investigation or on the murderer's sick killing spree, the focus here is on the sort of person who is often just a secondary character in these stories and questions what happens when they become more involved than they were ever expected to. Phoebe Locke breathes life into each of her characters and they are all believably complex individuals. Perceptive, engrossing and disturbing, with a finely crafted, surprising plot and superb characterisation; The July Girls is an outstanding must-read.

The July Girls is published by Wildfire Books, purchasing links can be found here or support independent bookstores by buying from your local shop or through Hive.

Don't miss the rest of the blog tour, details are below.

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. She lives and writes in Cambridgeshire. Phoebe Locke is the author of two psychological thrillers, THE TALL MAN, published 2018, and THE JULY GIRLS, out summer 2019.


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