I was drawn to this book by the premise – a ten-year-old girl, Addie, whose father comes home on the night of her birthday covered in blood and whose older sister, Jessie, later finds a missing woman’s purse hidden in his room. Every year, on Addie’s birthday, another woman goes missing and Addie begins to suspect that Jessie is keeping a secret that connects to her father and what happened on her tenth birthday.

Although there’s a mystery/thriller element to the novel, the focus on Addie and the fact the story is narrated by her makes this in many ways much more a coming-of-age story. Addie’s home life and her modest upbringing are particularly well drawn and there is a really tangible atmosphere created in the novel that makes it extremely readable. However, for me, the thriller aspect falls a bit short and I was never entirely convinced by this side of the novel. Similarly, I found the storyline about Addie’s sister, Jessie, a little bit meandering. I had expected more focus on the missing women themselves but they are merely footnotes to Addie’s story, and when the mystery does come to a head in the finale, it is rather dashed out at a pace and I felt like there were a few loose threads that the conclusion skirted over.

In terms of atmosphere and the characterisation of a young girl coming to age in both unsettling times and an unsettling home life, this novel hits the mark, but for me it didn’t quite fulfil the page-turning mystery/thriller angle. It might be a nice one for book groups though as I suspect there’s plenty to discuss and what better time to give it a go than in July.

J. Craddock 3/4

The July Girls by Phoebe Locke
Wildfire 9781472249289 hbk Jul 2019