Wildfire | 2019 (25 July) | 352p | Review copy | Buy the book
Every year on 7 July a woman is snatched off a London street never to be seen again. The body of one has been found but the killer learned from his mistake. No more have been discovered. But that day in 2005 was the day of the London bombings, when the attention was stolen from the killer. He’s determined that this won’t be the case again. The police know him as the Magpie as he likes to keep mementos from his crimes. There’s a reason why he keeps them.
7 July is also the birthday of young Addie Knight. On 7 July 2005 her father came home covered in blood and Addie, just ten years old, believed it was because of the bombings but then she and her much older sister Jessie find the purse of one of the missing women hidden in a hole in their father’s wall. Addie’s world is torn apart but while she struggles with what to do with the suspicion that consumes her, Jessie decides to make amends in another way entirely.
The July Girls is attracting a lot of attention and deservedly so. It’s a psychological thriller that races along – I read it in just a day – but it’s also driven by some beautifully drawn characters, especially sisters Addie and Jessie, as well as the younger children in the novel. They feel real; the awful situation they find themselves in also feels real, and we care deeply for little Addie as the worry she must contend with damages her. It’s a fascinating yet emotional portrait of a young girl caught in a situation she’s not old enough to deal with. And it’s through her young innocent eyes that we see this world that Phoebe Lock has created and it’s a menacing one, in which killers steal women, terrorists blow up innocent commuters and the disaffected riot in London’s streets.
I don’t want to give anything more away about the plot as it’s full of surprises as Addie grows into a teenager and learns more about the world and people around her. The menace is particularly prevalent in the first half of the novel and so this is my favourite part but I enjoyed the whole novel. It’s impossible to put down, with the pages flying through the fingers and – and this is a rare and good thing – I was completely caught out! I suspect this will be a very popular read on the beaches this summer.