‘Sometimes ordinary lives hide the darkest secrets’
All The Wicked Girls is the latest novel from Chris Whitaker, author of the highly acclaimed debut Tall Oaks. Due for publication in August with Bonnier Zaffre, I was absolutely thrilled to receive an advance copy from Emily Burns for review purposes.
Described as ‘a gripping crime novel with a huge heart’, All The Wicked Girls is a rather unique novel that I find difficult to pigeon-hole into any one particular genre.
Read on to see why….
Everyone loves Summer Ryan. A model student and musical prodigy, she’s a ray of light in the struggling small town of Grace, Alabama – especially compared to her troubled sister, Raine.
Then Summer goes missing.
Grace is already simmering, and with this new tragedy the police have their hands full keeping the peace. Only Raine throws herself into the search, supported by a most unlikely ally.
But perhaps there was always more to Summer than met the eye . . .
‘Raine sometimes complains that nothing exciting is ever gonna happen in Grace again. Daddy told her careful what you wish for’
Grace, a small town in Alabama, is a sweltering hot bed, where tempers are fraying and folk are just seemingly in a constant state of aggression. Chief Black is in charge of keeping the peace, a job he is struggling to manage. There is a general sense of fear among the community as a number of church-going girls have gone missing in the wider area in recent times. Locally termed the ‘Briar Girls’, all were known to be of sound character, all attending church regularly and considered good examples within their immediate locality.
One morning, Grace wakes up to the news that Summer Ryan has gone missing. Her father Joe, well known to Chief Black, is not long out of prison. On hearing his daughter has disappeared, Joe gathers up his vigilante group of friends and starts searching for Summer.
But there is something different about Summer’s disappearance, leading many to believe she ran away, but her sister Raine believes differently.
Summer and Raine are twins. Although poles apart in personality, their bond is strong. Raine, convinced that she can find her sister, decides to take matters into her own hands with the search for Summer.
Raine is a troubled girl. She appears to have very little regard for herself, and it’s almost as though she searches out danger wherever she can find it. With the help of two local boys, Purv and Noah, Raine sets out to investigate what really happened to Summer. The threesome are a very unlikely combination, but over time their relationship develops into something much deeper and very very sweet.
Now, here’s where the genre classification comes into question for me……
All The Wicked Girls is, as stated, a crime novel as a young girl has gone missing on the heels of others…..BUT….What Chris Whitaker has written is much much more than that.
This a dark, dark book. There is an intensity behind every word spoken. The characters, of which there are many, have all suffered innumerable tragedies. The landscape is bleak. The townspeople are in constant fear of the church and mass is central to the existence of many. Grace is a town where the Pastors preach from the pulpit with fire and brimstone in their words. The hardship is evident on every page.
When I started reading this book, I quickly found myself doing so with an Alabama drawl. It was so very easy to slip into the pages and immerse myself in the blistering atmosphere of each page.
I read many novels across many different genre and All The Wicked Girls is one I would personally term a literary read. I have read Days Without End by Sebastian Barry, and on finishing All The Wicked Girls, I was left with that same sense of being part of something very, very unique.
All The Wicked Girls might sound like a book that is just about one girl’s search for her missing sister, but it is not. As I read many pages I was quoting sentences aloud to anyone who would listen. There is a very distinct style to Chris Whitaker’s writing. He has captured the essence of this small Southern town with all the characters and nuances you would expect to find.
All The Wicked Girls is a novel that you will become one with. The characters’ emotions will become your emotions ; Tragedy, grief, sorrow, regret, yet also, hope, self-discovery and atonement.
A brooding, intense, incredible read!!
Please do pick up a copy for yourself and do let me know what you think…
Purchase Link ~ All The Wicked Girls (Pre-Order)
About The Author:
Chris Whitaker was born in London and spent ten years working as a financial trader in the city.
His debut novel, Tall Oaks, was shortlisted for the CWA John Creasey New Blood Dagger and also for the Last Laugh Award.
A Guardian crime book of the month, Tall Oaks also featured in Crime Time’s top 100 books of 2016 and BuzzFeed’s incredible summer reads.
Chris’s second novel, All The Wicked Girls, will be published in August 2017.
He lives in Hertfordshire with his wife and two young sons.
Twitter ~ @WhittyAuthor