All The Wicked Girls – Chris Whitaker. Filed under books to die for.

Publication Date: August 24th from Bonnier

Source: Oh I wouldn’t know where to begin

“Raine sometimes complains that nothing exciting is ever gonna happen in Grace again. Daddy told her careful what you wish for.”

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 . . .

There is definitely more to Summer than meets the eye…

When I read Tall Oaks (which became my no 1 book of 2016)  I didn’t know Chris Whitaker at all. Since then we have become good friends when he’s not annoying me (its ok petal, there are always the penguins) and I have been lucky enough to read this novel at several points during its journey from first draft to here, its been a journey of much emotion –  because this is an emotional story and the characters at the heart of it are incredibly real. I’m not sure how unbiased this review can be seen as but the absolute truth of the matter is that All the Wicked Girls is impossibly good. And beautiful. And melancholy, utterly compelling and difficult to describe.

Set in the fictional small town of Grace, Alabama, during the time of the so called “Satanic panic” a young girl called Summer has gone missing. Raine, her sister, is determined to find her and will use any means necessary, whether it hurts others or not. Meanwhile the community hovers on the edge of reason, there is more than one secret simmering below the surface and a dark cloud is on the horizon. Watch out, there’s a storm coming…

This is a crime story with a difference, a beautifully plotted, genuinely absorbing set of character studies, worked into a wider story of missing girls and religious fervour. If you try to put All the Wicked Girls into a genre box you’ll fail miserably because there isn’t one. I guess crime novel suits it as much as anything else would but when I was attempting to describe it to someone at work the other day I ended up tongue tied. It is deliciously dark but so intensely traumatic I don’t think I’ll ever get over it. Maybe Chris won’t either but I hope so because seriously he needs to write forever. Tall Oaks was amazing, add to that quality x 1000 with what is sure to become a trademark touch of insanely creative genius  and you’ll be close to All the Wicked Girls.

So you should get yourself a copy when you can and come to Grace, meet Summer and Raine, Noah and Purv, Sheriff Black and all the rest – find out what happens to them and feel like its all happening to you. I cried so much at this book, from the first reading when it was still “The Summer Cloud” to the latest reading now it has become “All the Wicked Girls” – doesn’t really matter that I know everything there is to know and can see what is coming, every time I get there I am destroyed. That is the pure power of it. Or was for me at least..

If you want another Tall Oaks you won’t get it – whilst there is humour here it is much darker, much more ironic and speaks to things we don’t want to imagine – there’ll be times when you want to look away but won’t be able to, there are times you will smile and there are at least two moments you might just exclaim out loud. Or if you are like me swear like a trouper then cry a bit more.

I love this book. It would surely be my no 1 of 2017 if I’d just read it in the normal way – but sorry Mr Whitaker no mars bars for you this year, wouldn’t be fair but for sure All the Wicked Girls is in my top ten books I’ve read ever let alone this year. And trust me that’s a lot of competition to overcome. If you want me to say why that is, I can’t. Sometimes things just get to you and you can’t say why. These, as ever, are the books I wait for, I read for. Much as I HATE to pay him any more compliments, he’s so difficult to live with (Victoria is an actual saint I am now convinced of it)  seriously, Chris Whitaker is annoyingly talented –  and despite the traumatic journey its been worth every 3am meltdown, every match reached for and every moment we wondered if THIS moment would ever actually arrive.

I won’t say highly recommended it seems inadequate. Pure magic on the page.

And, by the way, next time I’m hiding the damn matches.

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Happy Reading!

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