July’s here and we’re expecting another heatwave! Whether in your garden or lazing on the beach, sink into summer this year with this hazy, urban page-turner. Gripping from the first page to the last, there’s a twist that will knock you for six! 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. Welcome to The July Girls…
What’s the book about?
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 . . .
‘EXTRAORDINARY. SHOCKING, YET SUBTLE, THE MENACE DRIPS OFF EVERY PAGE . . . AN ALMOST UNBEARABLY GOOD READ’ – Caz Frear, author of SWEET LITTLE LIES
Phoebe Locke meets Thomas Cook! Find out what she has to say…
1. What inspired you to write The July Girls?
The first thing that came to me was the relationship between the two sisters – they were in a short story I wrote several years ago, which I didn’t end up doing anything with. They were almost exactly as they are in the novel – Addie aged ten and Jessie seventeen, basically fending for themselves in the city – but that was the only similarity as the entire plot was different (and terrible!). But they stayed with me, those two sisters, and later, when another idea came to me – a man coming home on the night of a terrorist incident, covered in blood not belonging to him despite not being anywhere near the attack – I realised that Addie could be the perfect character to tell that story.
2. Why did you choose the backdrop of London for this novel?
I lived in London for ten years and always had a bit of a love-hate relationship with it. When I first started writing The July Girls, I’d just started looking to move back to the country town where I grew up (in Cambridgeshire) and somehow, as the novel developed, so did London’s role in the story. It ended up as a bit of an unexpected love song to the city, in some ways, which surprised me. As the novel covers a reasonably large span of time (2005-2017), it also covers a lot of the time I was there – I was living in Brixton for some of it, the same as Addie is – and some of the events which feature most strongly in my memories of my time there, for example the 2011 riots.
London can often feel quite anonymous – it took me a while to get used to people saying hello to me in the street once I got back to the countryside! – and despite its busyness, I could imagine a woman disappearing unnoticed on a dark summer’s night. But it’s also a city you can come to feel very protective and possessive of, somewhere that you can really feel you belong, and that’s very much how Addie views it even as the rest of her world starts to crumble.
3. What’s your favourite summer holiday destination?
I’ve just got back from two weeks in Italy – a friend was getting married there – and as part of that trip we drove along the Amalfi coast, which was absolutely stunning. And I have never eaten so well in my life! But I also love San Francisco – that’s the place I’d go back to if I could pick anywhere tomorrow.
4. Who has had the biggest influence on you as a writer?
Stephen King or J. K. Rowling, probably – both of whom have made me stay up all night feverishly reading and made me feel so deeply for their characters. Or, if we go even further back, Dick King Smith or Colin Dann – for very similar reasons! I don’t think I’ve ever been more devastated by a book than The Fox Cub Bold.
5. Which of your novels have you most enjoyed writing?
It’s hard to choose, actually – I would say that writing The Tall Man was the most enjoyable; it really felt like something I was doing just for me, writing a story I knew I wanted to read. The July Girls felt harder – for practical reasons, like having a deadline, but also emotionally. But writing in the first person for a whole novel, especially following Addie grow up, felt very intense in a good way. I definitely feel the closest to her of any of my characters, and that’s rewarding in quite a special way.
6. What’s your favourite book of all time?
To Kill A Mockingbird. I think about it all the time, along with the English teacher who taught it to me for GCSE. The Gregory Peck adaptation is one of my ultimate comfort watches. But I also have a special place in my heart for Jane Eyre, probably the book I have most often reread – I feel that Jane means something different to me every time, though the rebellious teenage me who first encountered her loved her just as much as I do now.
7. What type of books do you like to read on a relaxing beach holiday?
A really good headscratching mystery or something really funny. Or something set in an exciting location – I just read Tangerine by Christine Mangan in one hot afternoon on the beach and it felt suitably fitting to the book’s Tangier setting.
8. If you were to write a book based abroad, rather than London, where would you choose?
I’ve been harbouring the beginnings of an idea in a Vegas hotel for a while, something I’d really like to find a novel in at some point!
9. What book is currently at the top of your must-read list?
I’ve just received an early copy of We Begin At The End by Chris Whitaker – I love his writing so I can’t wait to get stuck into that. And I’d also been saving Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams for my holiday, but in the end my suitcase was too heavy to add a hardback to so I’ll be reading it with my feet up in the garden instead.