Everyone loves Summer Ryan. A model student and musical prodigy, she’s a ray of light in the struggling small town of Grace – especially compared to her troubled sister, Raine. Then Summer vanishes.
Raine throws herself into the investigation, aided by a most unlikely ally, but the closer she gets to the truth, the more dangerous her search becomes.
And perhaps there was always more to Summer than met the eye . . .
There was a moment, right at the end of this book, when I realised that I had been holding my breath for ever such a long time. I don’t know whether I have just been exceptionally lucky to read so many good books this year, but I worry that I’m in danger of being accused of liking everything.
There’s no choice with All the Wicked Girls, though, because it is a brilliant book.
The story is about Summer Ryan, the latest in a line of young, church going girls in the small town of Grace, Alabama, to disappear, and of her twin sister Raine’s search for her.
It is written incredibly well. Whitaker captures the small town Alabama feel with piercing accuracy and his characters are so well drawn you come to feel that you know them and would recognise them if you saw them on the street.
The power of this book comes from that acute observation and from a massive sense of place and atmosphere – and because these are characters you are mesmerised by. In turns gripping and heart-breaking, this is so much more than a crime novel – it tells the story of a community with so many flaws and dark secrets that when something really bad happens, there is nowhere for anyone to hide.
A dark cloud is literally hanging over Grace. Tempers are frayed, suspicions aroused and there’s a dark malevolence in the small town fuelled by too much drink, too much poverty, so many secrets and so little hope.
As the Chief of Police, Sheriff Black battles his own demons to try to keep a lid on the mounting sense of panic and vigilantism growing in the town, the thin veneer of respectability peels away from those in positions of responsibility and it is left to Raine and her unlikely companions to try and find Summer.
This is a great crime book but it is also fabulous fiction written with literary skill and finesse.
It is raw, immersive, and powerful and invokes such emotion that it is impossible not to be affected by it. Incredibly well plotted it is both compelling and devastating. I don’t think I have read anything so powerful in this genre all year. Chris Whitaker is simply an extraordinary talent.
So, I’m going to have to urge you to buy it, because it really is that good.
All The Wicked Girls is published by Bonnier Zaffre on 24th August 2017
About Chris Whitaker
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’.
He lives in Hertfordshire with his wife and two young sons.