All The Wicked Girls
"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 . . .A gripping crime novel with a huge heart, this is the second novel from the exceptionally talented Chris Whitaker.

All The Wicked Girls Details

TitleAll The Wicked Girls
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseAug 24th, 2017
PublisherBonnier Zaffre
Rating
GenreMystery, Fiction, Crime

All The Wicked Girls Review

  • Paromjit
    January 1, 1970
    This is a dark, bleak and atmospheric novel in the southern gothic tradition located within the bible belt of Alabama. Set in the small town of Grace, of which there is precious little, it is a place populated by rednecks, hell, fire and brimstone preachers crushing in their judgements, and palpably short on hope and in its ability to offer a future to its young people. The terminal economical decline is painted in the lives of its inhabitants, barely scraping by, making do with occasional spora This is a dark, bleak and atmospheric novel in the southern gothic tradition located within the bible belt of Alabama. Set in the small town of Grace, of which there is precious little, it is a place populated by rednecks, hell, fire and brimstone preachers crushing in their judgements, and palpably short on hope and in its ability to offer a future to its young people. The terminal economical decline is painted in the lives of its inhabitants, barely scraping by, making do with occasional sporadic employment and with the prevalence of addictions to drink and drugs. Its people are no strangers to pain and suffering, magnified by the devastating sense of loss felt by the entire community for the missing Summer Ryan, the 15 year old twin sister of Raine. A dark cloud with its omen of a violent storm hangs over Grace, both literally and metaphorically, as a community is torn apart by fear and their burning need to find Summer. In the midst of this, precarious lives burdened by grief, loss, guilt, poor health, violence, secrets and more are slowly revealed in the compulsive and melancholic narrative of the novel.Joe and Ada Ryan call on their close connections in the community in their hunt for Summer, plagued by frightening thoughts that their daughter has been taken by the almost mythic Bird, a man that has taken 5 Briar church going girls, whose bodies have never been found. The repercussions on a wounded community in the wake of this horror are plain to see, in the guilt and helplessness felt by Chief Black, parents terrified for their daughters and the advice for girls to quit going to church. Raine is the wild and unpredictable twin, getting into trouble and negotiating the world by knowingly flaunting her sexuality. Her closeness to Summer though is never in doubt as her pain drives her to conduct her own search for her sister, looking into the backgrounds of the girls that went missing, an abortion facility, and any suspects associated with the Briar girls. She is aided by Noah Wild, with his strong feelings for Raine, and his close friend, Purv, with his volatile and violent father. Chief Black is teetering on the brink of his own personal and emotional hell, struggling to be taken seriously, amidst an intense media focus. The seething mass of feelings unleashed by the Ryan family and the religious fervour fanned by Pastor Lumen grow to alarming proportions. Summer's feelings and life reveal there is much more to her than might at first be surmised, given her musical and academic gifts.This is a hauntingly harrowing read of a novel that is so vital and vibrant in its sense of place and narrative. The characters come alive with their traumas, feelings and relationships. Grace is a town where everyone knows everyone, littered with broken lives and despair, and where it would not take much to trigger violence. I was so caught by the fact that for so many, getting involved with looking for Summer provides a sense of identity and a source of pride, not surprising, given how challenging their lives are. It is no wonder that religion thrives here, although not much peddles hope, when it is so sorely needed. Pastor Bobby, a gentler person than Pastor Lumen, is far too consumed by the loss of his son, and his own personal secrets, to be a greater force in the local community. I particularly adored both Noah and Purv, along with Raine, and her determination to find her sister, no matter what. Thankfully, the book ends with some grace and redemption in the town. Chris Whitaker has written a novel that I loved with a passion, despite its dark themes. I would really like him to return with these characters, but I am guessing that is not going to happen. Cannot recommend this highly enough! Many thanks to Bonnier Zaffre for an ARC.
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  • Sarah Joint
    January 1, 1970
    I've been struggling with figuring out how to review this mind boggling book. It will make you feel. It will make you uncomfortable. It's very dark, very atmospheric, quite disturbing. I wouldn't recommend it to someone who is easily shaken. I'm not, and I felt it. It's mostly written in a kind of small town southern dialect, and it took me awhile to get used to the vernacular. After about 10% it just flowed, I adapted easily even thought it's a bit different than what I usually read. Definitely I've been struggling with figuring out how to review this mind boggling book. It will make you feel. It will make you uncomfortable. It's very dark, very atmospheric, quite disturbing. I wouldn't recommend it to someone who is easily shaken. I'm not, and I felt it. It's mostly written in a kind of small town southern dialect, and it took me awhile to get used to the vernacular. After about 10% it just flowed, I adapted easily even thought it's a bit different than what I usually read. Definitely worth the initial struggle. Sexual themes and themes of abuse feature, so that's something you should expect when you pick it up. Summer and Raine are young teens, and they're twins. They couldn't be more different. Raine is a little wild... drinking, staying out late, running around with boys, and exploring her sexuality. Summer is sweet, intelligent, a voracious reader, a bit shy, and accomplished. Who disappears? Summer. Though she packed a bag and appears to have left on her own accord, Summer is not the first pretty young lady to disappear in the area. They were all church going girls, devout and well-behaved. They are all gone without a trace, vanished leaving no clue as to their whereabouts.Everyone is looking for Summer. Her father roams the town with his friends, his "boys" with their guns, seeking vigilante justice. Raine is looking too. She's as fierce and determined as anyone else. She has allies in Noah and Purv, two young men deemed as losers from most of their peers but eager to help. Uncovering Summer's life before she disappeared, who she spoke to, who she spent time with, is no easy task. They're determined. The popular opinion is that the girls have been taken by some kind of fearful perhaps even supernatural creature that can simply vanish into the woods, making the parents hold their pretty young daughters tight and pray for a reckoning. This story features a lot of characters and very dark themes. We get chapters from Summer before she disappeared, and also from twin sister Raine, her friends Noah and Purv, and what passes for law enforcement in town. Every single character has many layers and a lot of backstory. It can be hard to keep track at times, but staying focused is worth it. A heavily religious old school poor town during the panic about the occult in the 90's, you're in for a wild ride. This time period is when parents worried about everything from the music their children preferred to the books they read, thinking they were somehow connected with the devil. It's dark and disturbing, and worth the read. I received a copy of this book from Net Galley and Bonnier Zaffre, thank you! My review is honest and unbiased.
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  • Miriam Smith
    January 1, 1970
    Once again author Chris Whitaker has penned another fabulous book - this time "All The Wicked Girls" in a similar theme to his highly successful "Tall Oaks".I highly enjoyed this book, I was drawn into the story immediately and it never let go, keeping me gripped to the very end. Everyone loves model student Summer Ryan, 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, after several girls also went mi Once again author Chris Whitaker has penned another fabulous book - this time "All The Wicked Girls" in a similar theme to his highly successful "Tall Oaks".I highly enjoyed this book, I was drawn into the story immediately and it never let go, keeping me gripped to the very end. Everyone loves model student Summer Ryan, 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, after several girls also went missing in Briar County and never found the residents aren't sure whether the same person nicknamed "The Bird" is responsible for Summer's disappearance. Her sister throws herself into finding her, supported by a most unlikely ally. But maybe there was more to Summer than meets the eye.....There was a very compelling storyline that ran through this book with some adorable characters like Noah and Purv, who in my opinion stole the show, however it was quite heartbreaking and I have to admit to being very tearful at the ending. The author has created a fantastic story here, being British and writing an American book is a brilliant achievement, getting the dialogue and narrative perfect for the setting. Though at times I did find the southern accent quite thick to comfortably read I still thought this was a highly entertaining book that i'd happily recommend and can't wait for a third book to be written!!5 well deserved stars.
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  • Jill Croce-McGill
    January 1, 1970
    All The Wicked Girls is a gripping crime novel that is dark, intense, and atmospheric. Chris Whitaker's writing style is perfection, from the realistic characters to the way he captures the expressions and mannerisms of a small southern town. I found myself reading with a southern drawl throughout - I don't do that very often. "Raine sometimes complains that nothing exciting is ever gonna happen in Grace again. Daddy told her careful what you wish for." 15-year-old Summer Ryan goes missing in th All The Wicked Girls is a gripping crime novel that is dark, intense, and atmospheric. Chris Whitaker's writing style is perfection, from the realistic characters to the way he captures the expressions and mannerisms of a small southern town. I found myself reading with a southern drawl throughout - I don't do that very often. "Raine sometimes complains that nothing exciting is ever gonna happen in Grace again. Daddy told her careful what you wish for." 15-year-old Summer Ryan goes missing in the small town of Grace, Alabama. Unfortunately, she isn't the first teenage girl to go missing in the last few years. Sheriff Black thinks she ran away, her troubled twin sister Raine doesn't believe that at all. Raine will do everything in her power to find her sister and bring her back home. But is there more to the model student and musical prodigy, Summer Ryan, than meets the eye...This is more than a crime novel, this is a story of tragedy, heartbreak, hope, and love between two sisters. This book will definitely keep you guessing until the end. My hat goes off to Chris Whitaker and I'm looking forward to reading more of his books very soon! Highly recommend!*I want to thank NetGalley and Bonnier Zaffre for the ARC of this book.
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  • Carol
    January 1, 1970
    3.5 Stars.1995 - A dark cloud hangs over the small town of Grace Alabama.....in more ways than one.AND NOW.....Summer Ryan has gone missing too, but unlike the other devoted church girls....the only one who packed a bag.The main theme in ALL THE WICKED GIRLS is the search for an innocent, talented 15 year old that, in turn, introduces a multitude of flawed characters with lifestyles to match from the poor town of Grace.....including a substance dependent police chief.Twin sister Raine is a wild 3.5 Stars.1995 - A dark cloud hangs over the small town of Grace Alabama.....in more ways than one.AND NOW.....Summer Ryan has gone missing too, but unlike the other devoted church girls....the only one who packed a bag.The main theme in ALL THE WICKED GIRLS is the search for an innocent, talented 15 year old that, in turn, introduces a multitude of flawed characters with lifestyles to match from the poor town of Grace.....including a substance dependent police chief.Twin sister Raine is a wild one. She has Sticky fingers...likes her drink...and flaunts her body when necessary, but she loves her sister and will NEVER give up the hunt. With her two new faithful partners in crime, Noah and Purv....each with their own devastating difficulties in life, they seek out to find truth and destroy evil.Even with a devil about and a storm brewing, if truth be told, a good portion of the first half of this dark novel turned out to be a somewhat tedious read for me, but the last half kept me fully engaged despite being left with a few unanswered questions.Tragic. Filled with Despair. Lots of Secrets.Many thanks to NetGalley, and Bonnier Zaffre for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Emma
    January 1, 1970
    I couldn't stop reading. I know this is a phrase overused, but I mean it truly. Yesterday I picked up five separate books, tried and failed to engage with their story. This I couldn’t let go, I read it from cover to cover because there was no way I could leave it without knowing. It was all sharp details and roving suspicion. It reminded me somewhat of how I felt reading The Dry last year, suffused in the sweltering heat. Once again, I am lost in the place, fearful of the dark cloud and broken p I couldn't stop reading. I know this is a phrase overused, but I mean it truly. Yesterday I picked up five separate books, tried and failed to engage with their story. This I couldn’t let go, I read it from cover to cover because there was no way I could leave it without knowing. It was all sharp details and roving suspicion. It reminded me somewhat of how I felt reading The Dry last year, suffused in the sweltering heat. Once again, I am lost in the place, fearful of the dark cloud and broken people living beneath it. There is a depth and beauty to the characters that puts you right in it with them, their confessions seem directed at you, and you can’t help but listen. I guessed and guessed, following the clues but never sure of where their stories were heading. I identified what I thought were telltale details, some deftly hidden, some sun bright, but still didn’t see the end till it opened out before me, that is until my feet were kicked hard from under me. I’m still reeling.I loved Tall Oaks and gave it 5 stars. I give this the same but it feels almost a disservice to do so. That book was good, but this, this is great. If I thought Chris Whitaker could write before, now I am awed by his talent. This is an exceptional piece of work, literary crime fiction with a pitch dark heart. I might come back and add more to the review once I’ve thought it though but for now i’ll just say: read it.ARC via Netgalley
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  • Sandy
    January 1, 1970
    3.5 starsSo I’ve spent a couple of days rolling this around in my head. It’s one of those books where you could write 2 very different reviews depending on whether you based it on more technical aspects or just pure enjoyment factor. From the blurb, we know 15 year old Summer Ryan has gone missing from the small (and ironically named) town of Grace. She did leave a note but the area has a grim history. Over the course of a year, 5 young church-going girls went missing from various spots around B 3.5 starsSo I’ve spent a couple of days rolling this around in my head. It’s one of those books where you could write 2 very different reviews depending on whether you based it on more technical aspects or just pure enjoyment factor. From the blurb, we know 15 year old Summer Ryan has gone missing from the small (and ironically named) town of Grace. She did leave a note but the area has a grim history. Over the course of a year, 5 young church-going girls went missing from various spots around Briar County. So the question is: did she run or was she taken? Either way, it’s her sister Raine who would have been voted most likely to disappear. She’s the dark, troubled flip side of her sunny, accomplished sister. As with many small towns, you may not like your neighbour but that doesn’t stop you lending a hand in a crisis. The whole area is galvanized & soon there are 3 groups searching for Summer. Joe Ryan is an intimidating ex-con who puts together his own posse of family & friends to look for his daughter. Chief Black is a good ol’ boy still haunted by the failure to find any of the 5 church girls. That Summer could be #6 is almost too much for him to bear. He’s also trying to keep an eye on Joe in an effort to make sure he doesn’t shoot first & ask questions later. Raine is not relying on either of the search parties. She mounts her own investigation, dragging along friends Noah & Purv to help.The majority of the story is told by the 2 girls in alternating chapters. We follow Raine in the present & through Summer, we learn about events leading up to her disappearance. This is a tough read. I can’t think of a single character who is not dealing with poverty, substance abuse, domestic violence or a combination of the three. Grace is a town that is on its last legs since the loss of a mill that provided jobs. The author does an amazing job of creating an atmosphere of desperation & decay that feels almost gothic at times. The result is one of the most unrelentingly depressing books I’ve ever read. So while I’m truly in awe of his ability to pull you into the story, I don’t know if I can say I enjoyed it. Oddly enough, it wasn’t the main characters I found most interesting. I was much more invested in the lives of Noah & Purv, 2 teenage boys who rely on each other to survive. They’re frequently at Raine’s disposal but it was the scenes with just the 2 boys that I found most affecting. Their friendship is literally the only good thing in their sad lives & the mutual support they share is both touching & heartbreaking. Somehow they manage to cling to something rarely seen in these parts…..hope. I almost resented leaving their chapters to return to those narrated by the girls.There were several times throughout the story where I felt like I missed a significant point. A scene would end & I’d be left with the feeling I’d skated by something of import, that I should be taking away more than I did from a comment or a look. So while many of the story lines are tied up by the end, I have a few lingering questions but it’s quite possible the answers are there & I just didn’t pick them up.So is this a well written book? Absolutely. The author immerses you in this bleak little corner of the world & preys on your emotions. He even allows a literal ray of light at the end. I found myself thinking about some of the characters for several days after finishing & that’s always a good sign. In the end, I split the difference between 4 stars for writing & 3 for enjoyment. And I just might need to select something a bit more upbeat as my next read.
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  • Pauline
    January 1, 1970
    The story of two sisters and the efforts Raine goes to find her missing sister Summer. This crime thriller will keep you guessing until the end.I would like to thank NetGalley for my e-copy in exchange for an honest review.
  • Rachel Hall
    January 1, 1970
    After the sheer, breathtaking brilliance of Chris Whitaker’s debut, Tall Oaks, I had high hopes that this would be another completely ingenious, well plotted novel with a host of oddball characters that wear their hearts on their sleeve. Admittedly, it had all of those components and the same bristling whip-smart humour, but I found All The Wicked Girls a slog to make it through. Why? First and foremost is that this follow-up is essentially a rip off of Tall Oaks. Replace small-town suburban Tal After the sheer, breathtaking brilliance of Chris Whitaker’s debut, Tall Oaks, I had high hopes that this would be another completely ingenious, well plotted novel with a host of oddball characters that wear their hearts on their sleeve. Admittedly, it had all of those components and the same bristling whip-smart humour, but I found All The Wicked Girls a slog to make it through. Why? First and foremost is that this follow-up is essentially a rip off of Tall Oaks. Replace small-town suburban Tall Oaks with the deeply religious but morally dubious town of Grace, Alabama, throw in a missing persons enquiry, a brewing storm and a cast of eccentrics. Sprinkle with southern American drawl, some evangelical eulogising and frequent comparisons of the approaching storm with the devil entering the town, and the result is All The Wicked Girls set in 1995. Grace is a town where every Sunday, reeking of booze the townsfolk roll up to church in order to rid themselves of the sins of the weekend. Whilst this second effort is still tightly pinned down and hard to fault Whitaker’s execution, it is also drawn out, often repetitive and all overseen by a dysfunctional detective who has a heck of a lot of similarities to Tall Oak’s Sergeant Young. It was also uncannily similar to The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel but lacked the necessarily air of menace. When one of the fifteen-year-old Ryan twins packs a bag and leaves a note saying, “I’m sorry”, it is no surprise that she wants to leave a community in despair and awash with alcohol, drugs and hard drinking men who take exactly what they want. The surprise, however, is that is in not wayward Raine, who is no stranger to trouble, but the church going, god fearing, golden girl, Summer. The twins might be chalk and cheese but they are bonded tight and so when Summer disappears Raine, parents Joe and Ava Ryan and Chief Black are all thinking one and the same thing, namely that “the Bird” has returned. However, only Raine is brave enough to articulate Grace’s fears that the unknown perpetrator, termed “the Bird” and responsible for taking five church going pretty young girls in neighbouring Briar County, has struck once again. The five girls has never been found, alive or dead, but with Raine on the back of a disheartened Chief Black and conducting her own inquiries with an unlikely couple of allies in Noah Wild and Purv Bowdoin things are stirring. It may have been six-months since the last Briar girl vanished, but Raine knows something isn’t right. Meanwhile, Joe Ryan, brother Tommy and their rednecks pals are chomping at the bit to take matters in their own hands meaning that the descending dark clouds over Grace aren’t the only ominous threat.Much is made of the impending storm that is responsible for the simmering tension, yet with all the references to god, the devil and the church, I felt this was a little overdone and didn’t rouse the dark atmosphere that Whitaker was obviously intending to inspire. The narrative is comprised of Summer’s first person account of the time leading up to her disappearance, alternating with chapters in the third person showing Raine, Noah and Purv’s exploits and the reinvigorated drive of Chief Black. As with life in Tall Oaks, the town of Grace is home to plenty of characters with hidden motivations and a multitude of sordid secrets. In Grace, religion figures large in people's minds and Pastor Bobby Ritter has replaced the intimidating Pastor Lumen in town after his stroke. As a devout church goer and a cello protégée of Pastor Bobby’s wealthy wife, Savannah, Summer was a frequent visitor to their home. But Pastor Bobby has his own problems too, and the death of their young child, Michael, has left he and Savannah effectively living separate lives. With Savannah lining Summer up for a music scholarship to Maidenville, she needs to turn in one final paper, but has her chosen subject, the missing Briar girls, taken her into risky territory and can this explain her disappearance?Pastor Lumen casts a shadow over the town, scornful of his son, Samson, a recent attendee at the church since his father’s medical woes. As a friend to Summer, the slow-witted Samson is a viable suspect, along with Uncle Tommy, the man who oversaw the lives of Joe’s girls when he went down for an eight stretch. Eager to assist the worldly-wise and scathing Raine, a genuinely kind girl who is hiding behind a smart-mouth and an teflon exterior, are teenage losers and hero cop’s son, Noah Wild, and Purv Bowdoin, son of the unforgiving construction worker, Ray, who thinks nothing of dishing out a beating to his boy. Not quite an invincible duo but a truly comical combination who see life through rose-tinted spectacles, even in a town as hard bitten as Grace. As secrets are driven out, potential suspects come to light and the elusive hunt for “the Bird” builds up a potent head of steam.The chapters relayed from Summer’s point of view reveal that appearances can be very deceptive, and she is not quite as pure as the driven snow. Behind this ethereal golden girl lies a much more nuanced young woman who knows exactly what powers she has within her the palm of her hand. Deeper and much darker than Tall Oaks, it is impossible to not find yourself enthralled by being a fly on the wall in a fascinating town, but I felt Whitaker overdid the deep and meaningful life lessons on morality which held the story back from really firing my imagination. I stayed with this story, but it wasn’t one that I felt myself continuously pulled back to or felt invested in. The writing is undoubtedly of high quality, but All The Wicked Girls has a very different style to Whitaker’s debut. This story is dark, raw and beyond redemption and on a sheer entertainment scale it is a much harder story to trawl through and requires concentration. As a U.K. citizen I must also admit that the southern drawl and use of the vernacular wasn’t always crystal clear and along with a cast well into double figures, I found this novel a laboured read.
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  • Adrian Dooley
    January 1, 1970
    Well I thought I wasn't going to like this one but after a clunky start I started to get into the flow of it and then was transfixed for the rest of the read. All The Wicked Girls tells the story of two sisters, Summer and Raine Ryan in the small town of Grace Alabama. Coming from a very poor background and troublesome family, Summer seems the squeaky clean one, quite and polite, a model student and musical prodigy. Raine is the opposite. Always in trouble, be it with the law or sleeping with ol Well I thought I wasn't going to like this one but after a clunky start I started to get into the flow of it and then was transfixed for the rest of the read. All The Wicked Girls tells the story of two sisters, Summer and Raine Ryan in the small town of Grace Alabama. Coming from a very poor background and troublesome family, Summer seems the squeaky clean one, quite and polite, a model student and musical prodigy. Raine is the opposite. Always in trouble, be it with the law or sleeping with older boys. Although seemingly opposites the two are incredibly close. When Summer goes missing an already tense town of Grace gets even more tense. A serial killer has been on the loose and killing young girls and the locals are afraid he may have striked again. While tensions rise and law enforcement struggle to keep the peace between the different factions, the Ryan family and friends and religious factions who think the killings are the work of the devil, Raine decides it's up to her to find out what happened to her sister. She forms an unlikely bond with two local younger boys and the three set out to uncover what happened to Summer and the simmering secrets that the town holds. It's hard to describe this book. Although it sounds like a straight forward thriller it's far from it. Summer being missing and being searched for is not really the central theme of this excellent and unique book. It's so hard to describe. It's more the study and description of a down on its luck small town, consumed by strong religious beliefs and full of shady characters that are all struggling with their financial and mental health. It's a nearly hypnotic read once you get into it. Full of metaphors and imagery and fantastic character studies, it's an all consuming, depressing but totally enjoyable read. So many vivid passages and character studies, the town of Grace and it's inhabitants have an almost other worldly feel to them. A constant sense of foreboding and secrets, the presence of the huge cloud and impending storm hanging over the town for the duration is a great metaphor and Stephen Kingesque in its feel. The only reason I haven't given this 5 stars is I found this initially quite hard to get in to. We are bombarded with characters at the start and I found myself reading back a couple of times to remember who was who. The narrative changes and jumps from one character to another very quickly, numerous times within individual chapters, which I found a little disorientating at the start but once I got used to it, it was fine and part of the charm of this unique book. One more slight criticism I would have is that the story is told, no matter from who's perspective it is being told, be it a character or just the general narrative, with a heavy Southern drawl with loads of double negatives that are many as a single negative etc and I found that all a bit of hard work to read in the first few chapters until again I got used to it. These overall minor criticisms of this book though should in no way take away from the sheer brilliance and individuality of it. It really is that good and unique. It's a bleak read with plenty of uplifting moments along the way and it's nearly imposssible to describe in a synopsis. I'd highly recommended this book. If you find it hard work initially, stick with it. The pay off more than makes up for it. I guarantee once you find your feet with this one and get into the rhythm of the novel, you will be totally transfixed. 4.5 stars from me. One of my favourite reads of the reads so far and most certainly the most memorable. Thanks to NetGalley, Bonnier Zaffre and Chris Whitaker for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Jan
    January 1, 1970
    I only need 3 words to sum up this solid mystery:Dark, haunting, atmospheric. Well I decided to leave this review as it stands now that some time has passed....I don't think I can add anymore to it that will spark more interest! ;)ARC provided by NetGalley
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  • Annie ~ The Misstery
    January 1, 1970
    You can’t imagine how happy I was when I checked out my reading calendar and saw that my next ARC was All The Wicked Girls. I had been trying to catch up on physical arcs to be able to focus my attention on Netgalley when I’m on vacation, and Chris Whitaker’s book was next on my to-read list. I was excited. And nervous. What if I didn’t love it as much as I loved Tall Oaks? After all, that one was my favorite book of 2016. High expectations were inevitable.As soon as I read the first chapter tho You can’t imagine how happy I was when I checked out my reading calendar and saw that my next ARC was All The Wicked Girls. I had been trying to catch up on physical arcs to be able to focus my attention on Netgalley when I’m on vacation, and Chris Whitaker’s book was next on my to-read list. I was excited. And nervous. What if I didn’t love it as much as I loved Tall Oaks? After all, that one was my favorite book of 2016. High expectations were inevitable.As soon as I read the first chapter though, I remembered why I loved his debut so so much. The writing is flawless, the story manages to grip you from the very first paragraph and you can’t wait to keep on reading to find out more. If you read the first chapter and you don’t want to know more… well, then I guess we can’t be friends 😉 It’s still July, but I already know All The Wicked Girls will be one of my favorites. It was that good. You know which book I thought of while reading this one? Mystic River. And I liked All The Wicked Girls better.At the same time, I feel I should warn you that this is much darker and dramatic than Tall Oaks ever was. This book was like one of those epic dramas that leave you exhausted but in a good way. I don’t know how to explain it, but I could feel this was going to be a special novel just after a few pages. There was something magnetic about it, I was completely captivated. And no, this isn’t your typical fast-paced, easy-to-read thriller, it’s way more complex and deep, and I especially love the way the author explores small-town dynamics and relationships between unlikely allies. And how the weather is practically another character.So what’s it about? All The Wicked Girls tells the story of Grace, Alabama, a small-town filled with broken people keeping secrets. And girls from near towns are disappearing. No one knows what’s going on and the only suspect is someone they call “Bird”. But who is he? Everything changes when Summer Ryan disappears. She’s Grace’s “good girl” and she wouldn’t run away, would she? But then again, she left a note… Did Bird take her? Did she take off? Meanwhile, her wild sister Raine is determined to find out what happened and so she starts investigating with the help of two other teenagers: Noah and Purv. But that’s not all. We will also follow Summer’s months before her disappearance and we might discover things we wish we hadn’t known…The mystery was hands down fantastic, and it’s exactly the kind of story that I crave for. A southern gothic tale that is completely absorbing and leaves you breathless by the time you reach the tragic final pages.Even though the book is completely different to Tall Oaks, it still has all those ingredients that made me fall in love with Chris Whitaker’s writing. You can’t help but love Noah from the very first scene with the badge. And he is not Manny, but there’s something about this sweet kid that reminded me of him. The relationship between the teenagers is sweet and devastating at the same time and I’m not ashamed to admit I shed a few tears.All The Wicked Girls is an unforgettable novel and I want you all to discover its magic.
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  • Amy
    January 1, 1970
    Last year I was raving about Tall Oaks, a truly special debut that ended up being one of my favorite reads of 2016. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on All The Wicked Girls and I was simultaneously giddy and nervous when I started. I was so enraptured by TO that I worried that maybe I wouldn’t be as crazy about this one but all that worry was totally unnecessary as this was another amazing read that blew me away just as much as TO did. I have a hard time reviewing books that truly move me and I t Last year I was raving about Tall Oaks, a truly special debut that ended up being one of my favorite reads of 2016. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on All The Wicked Girls and I was simultaneously giddy and nervous when I started. I was so enraptured by TO that I worried that maybe I wouldn’t be as crazy about this one but all that worry was totally unnecessary as this was another amazing read that blew me away just as much as TO did. I have a hard time reviewing books that truly move me and I think I may have finally found a structure that works for me recently with my review of The Good Daughter. I’m going to try that approach again here and hope that it shows you guys just how much I loved this book. Small town America has never been portrayed so brilliantly. What does a U.K. based author know about life in small town southern America? If you’re Chris Whitaker, EVERYTHING. ATWG is set in Grace, Alabama in the nineties and he captures the dynamics of a small southern town perfectly. Grace is a town full of despair and oppression, the residents are so tired and defeated, there is an overwhelming feeling of desperation and hopelessness that made me feel stifled and weary. Evoking unexpected emotions is always the hallmark of a gifted storyteller in my opinion. There is such a strong sense of place that imagining this town was effortless. His writing is intense and his voice is wholly unique. Adding to the amazing setting is the stylized writing used, the Southern expressions and mannerisms were dead on and I instantly found myself reading Whitaker’s prose in a lazy drawl. The weather plays a large role and I was immersed in the atmospheric nature by the extremely well crafted imagery he created. I can so easily imagine this town that I would love to see it as a movie!His characterization is flawless. For everyone that loved Manny in TO you’ll be pleased to know that Whitaker’s ability to create a memorable teenage boy was not a fluke. Noah and Purv are best friends who help Raine search for her sister, Summer and they were both the type of characters that you can picture leaping off the pages and walking down the street, they’re truly larger than life. Chief Black is a man with the weight of the world on his shoulders and Samson may be one of the oddest fictional characters I’ve ever encountered. That’s just a taste of the flawed, raw, astounding cast that features in this book. He writes thrillers that make you feel all of the feelings. Very few writers can move me to tears, I’m pretty stone cold but I definitely shed a few tears while reading this. Alright fine, it was more than a few tears, Whitaker completely shattered my heart and took my emotions on a roller coaster ride of epic proportions. I also laughed though, there is humor here as well which brings levity to an otherwise dark plot. He also explores dark themes such as domestic violence, drug abuse, poverty, loss and love in such a profoundly poetic way, its breathtakingly beautiful. He takes intricate plotting to a new level. You know how annoying it can be when you’re always two steps ahead of an author and you can see the plot twists coming a mile away? That doesn’t happen here, Whitaker is constantly leading the reader down one path only to knock you down just when you think you know exactly what’s going on. Nothing is as it seems and everyone has secrets, remember that and you’ll figure it all out. 😜I’ll stop rambling now but I’ll finish by saying that this book proves that Whitaker is a force to be reckoned with, he is insanely talented and I would be honored to read his to do list. If you haven’t read TO yet, what are you waiting for?! Then when you get done and are desperate for more grab this one. All of my reviews can be found on www.novelgossip.com
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  • AnisaAnne
    January 1, 1970
    You can also read my reviews on WP: https://anisabookreviews.wordpress.co...Dark. Mind-blowing. Disturbing.In the small town of Grace, nothing out of the ordinary happens. But there was that one year five church girls from Briar went missing. Six months later, Summer's is nowhere to be found. A note left suggests she ran off. But Raine, her twin sister, knows it the Bird monster's work. She sets on her own to find her sister and to solve the mystery that has bewildered the town police. And Raine You can also read my reviews on WP: https://anisabookreviews.wordpress.co...Dark. Mind-blowing. Disturbing.In the small town of Grace, nothing out of the ordinary happens. But there was that one year five church girls from Briar went missing. Six months later, Summer's is nowhere to be found. A note left suggests she ran off. But Raine, her twin sister, knows it the Bird monster's work. She sets on her own to find her sister and to solve the mystery that has bewildered the town police. And Raine learns there is more than meets the eye with Summer.The novel, alternating between the voice of Raine in the present and Summer in the past is darkly atmospheric and ominous. The setting is a small town, deeply religious, and decompensating after the Mill shut down. The children are on their own; the law neglected by the police and its inhabitants. This statement by Raine's friend Noah summarizes the town- "Grace. It's a funny kinda town. People go to church every Sunday, reeking of booze and the sins of the weekend. They pray it away then do it again, same each and every." The town of Grace has created its own rules to survive the desolation.The characters are rich, layered and full of history. There are many characters to keep track of, but each has a story to be told. Raine is a rebel, drinking, smoking and always in trouble. She has met the hook a few times. Summer is a child prodigy, with musical skills and a passion for books. The fifteen-year-old twins could not be any more different. And yet they have a love that is unbreakable. "They held hands, Even now, if they were sad or mad or happy, they held hands." As the chapters unfold, we discover the events leading up to Summer's fate. Raine's relentless hunt to find her sister is tense and heartbreaking. The language of the small town is challenging takes a couple of chapters to understand, but it adds depth to character and setting. The southern drawl is deep south, and broken and creates realism. The storyline is well plotted and played and will leave you feeling unsettled. Not necessarily for the crime story, but for the love and tragedy between two sisters. All the Wicked Girls, is a dark and disturbing novel and not for the faint heart. The writing is phenomenal! It is confusing at the start, but continue reading, as you will be drawn into the darkest elements of Briar County. Thank you, NetGalley, Bonnier Zaffre, and the author for the ARC in exchange for my honest review.
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  • Lee
    January 1, 1970
    This is the story of twin sisters, Summer considered the be the "good twin" and Raine the more challenging of the two, it seems that they are like chalk and cheese, but are they really? Over the last few years five young girls have disappeared in the town of Grace and now Summer has disappeared. Tension arises in the community, family and others believe something terrible has happened to Summer but the local law enforcement think that she has taken off on her own free will. The story alternates This is the story of twin sisters, Summer considered the be the "good twin" and Raine the more challenging of the two, it seems that they are like chalk and cheese, but are they really? Over the last few years five young girls have disappeared in the town of Grace and now Summer has disappeared. Tension arises in the community, family and others believe something terrible has happened to Summer but the local law enforcement think that she has taken off on her own free will. The story alternates between the two sisters, Raine tells the story from the present and Summer from the past which works very well. There are a lot of other characters portrayed in this story and initially I was finding it hard to keep up but about 20% in it all comes together. Grace is not an affluent town, there is a lot of poverty and drug and drink dependence, in saying this it is these characters that make this book shine. Would I recommend this book?, yes definitely, the ending was not what I expected and this just added to the fact that I kept thinking about it long after I finished. Thank you to Netgalley, the author and publisher for the chance to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
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  • G.J. Minett
    January 1, 1970
    This really is something else. Given the acclaim that greeted his debut novel, it must have been tempting to play safe with the notoriously difficult second novel by staying close to the format that served him so well in Tall Oaks. Instead Chris Whitaker has opted for a much broader canvas, pushing out the boundaries with an ambitious novel that is part parable, part morality tale, part crime novel and which will stay with the reader for a long time.It’s set in Grace, an Alabama backwater town w This really is something else. Given the acclaim that greeted his debut novel, it must have been tempting to play safe with the notoriously difficult second novel by staying close to the format that served him so well in Tall Oaks. Instead Chris Whitaker has opted for a much broader canvas, pushing out the boundaries with an ambitious novel that is part parable, part morality tale, part crime novel and which will stay with the reader for a long time.It’s set in Grace, an Alabama backwater town whose inhabitants understand that they are never going to rub shoulders with the American Dream. Economically deprived, their lives framed by the Bible Belt and its fire and brimstone preachers, its inhabitants do what they can to make ends meet and live up to the standards expected of them. Theirs is a hard-bitten existence but one based on the sort of mutual support which is found in most small communities.The story itself is easily described. When young girls start to go missing it is the start of The Panic, a feverish, superstitious reaction which their hardline guides and mentors are quick to exploit. For these are not girls with loose morals who have brought it all on themselves – they are church-going teenagers, models of the community as it appears on the surface. The already dangerous mix of guilt and religious excess is further exacerbated by the arrival of a huge dark cloud which squats over Grace and refuses to move on, casting the entire town into darkness which is so localised the whole community can be in no doubt as to what it means – divine disapproval in physical form of the town as a whole.What makes this such a special novel though is the characters and the remarkable skill with which Chris Whitaker brings them to life. Many of the reviews of Tall Oaks have heaped praise on the book for the character of Manny and there are undoubted echoes in Raine, Noah and Purv – “Seriously?” she said. “Purv with a u,” Purv said. She chewed cinnamon gum. “Well that’s somethin’, I guess.” The author is clearly in his comfort zone when firing off one-liners and sharp put-downs which means there will always be humour in his work however serious the subject matter might be. And again, just as in his debut novel, he manages to tap into the young characters and find the inner purity, decency and moral courage that they are so desperate to keep hidden most of the time to avoid being uncool and we love them all the more for it.But in All The Wicked Girls he has the courage to move onto a different level altogether. He demonstrated in Tall Oaks that he can do the same with adults but there are passages here, especially in conversation, when he shows great insight into how people cope with loss and the challenges life throws at them. Black’s burning need to atone for mistakes of the past, Bobby’s spiritual crisis, Savannah’s fears that she may be losing him, Summer’s desperate desire to find some way of reconciling the beauty within her with the concept of sin and temptation, the oh-so-touching relationship Noah has with both Purv and the wonderful Raine who, for me at any rate, is the star of the show – all of these combine to make this a book that will linger long in the memory and should bring the author to the much wider audience his talents deserve.This really is writing of a very high quality.
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  • Linda Strong
    January 1, 1970
    Summer and Raine are twin sisters, young teenagers. They are as different as night and day. Summer is the 'good' daughter. She's a model student and musical prodigy. Raine is the one running around all hours, flirting with the boys, drinking. Everything changes when Summer goes missing. Most people are scared ... there have already been several teenage girls who have disappeared from the area over the last few years. The local law enforcement officer thinks she's just taken off.Did she take off Summer and Raine are twin sisters, young teenagers. They are as different as night and day. Summer is the 'good' daughter. She's a model student and musical prodigy. Raine is the one running around all hours, flirting with the boys, drinking. Everything changes when Summer goes missing. Most people are scared ... there have already been several teenage girls who have disappeared from the area over the last few years. The local law enforcement officer thinks she's just taken off.Did she take off on her own? Or has something unspeakable happened to her?Raine intends to find out because she does not believe that Summer would leave her behind. Finding someone ... anyone ... who believes her is harder than it sounds. But Raine is determined .... There is talk about evil in the woods and that's where Raine will start looking .... and then a violent storm hits the area.This is a crime novel, a love story of sisters, a family torn apart. The story is told by each of the sisters in turn. There are lots of memories invoked. The sisters have always been close ..always worried about the other...and always having each others' backs.Once started, it's a fast read. The characters are skillfully written, so easy to get lost in their lives. Many thanks to the author / Bonnier Zaffre / Netgalley for the advanced digital copy. Opinions expressed here are unbiased and entirely my own.
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  • Kate
    January 1, 1970
    This wonderful, wonderful book has left me speechless and in tears. Superb.A review: https://forwinternights.wordpress.com...
  • Eva
    January 1, 1970
    Summer Ryan goes missing from her home town. She’s not the first girl to disappear. Four other girls, all sweet church going ones, have vanished from a neighbouring town. They’ve not been found, nor the person responsible who they call The Bird. The local police force is tired and feels beaten. So when Summer goes missing, it’s Raine who throws herself into the search for her twin sister.There is a dark cloud hanging over the small town of Grace, Alabama. In more ways than one. I mean, there rea Summer Ryan goes missing from her home town. She’s not the first girl to disappear. Four other girls, all sweet church going ones, have vanished from a neighbouring town. They’ve not been found, nor the person responsible who they call The Bird. The local police force is tired and feels beaten. So when Summer goes missing, it’s Raine who throws herself into the search for her twin sister.There is a dark cloud hanging over the small town of Grace, Alabama. In more ways than one. I mean, there really is an actual dark cloud threatening a huge storm. But there’s more than that as tension in the town rises and people turn on one another.I have to say this book wasn’t at all what I was expecting. At its heart, it’s crime fiction dealing with missing girls but there is so much more to it than that. All the Wicked Girls is quite slow and incredibly dark but the tension is palpable throughout. It’s incredibly intelligently plotted and amazingly descriptive. Not having read the author’s previous book, Tall Oaks, I had no idea what I was letting myself in for. While it took me a while to get used to the very distinct writing, it was the atmosphere that sucked me in as it oozes from the pages. I could hear the Southern drawl in my head, hear the crickets chirping at night and completely imagine the oppressiveness of living in a small and poor town in Bible Belt country.These characters will stay with you for a long time as the author really brings them to life. It’s all incredibly realistic and believable as the town residents try to cope with the challenges life throws at them, with topics ranging from child abuse to drug addiction to dealing with the loss of a child. And yet somehow, the author manages to occasionally lighten the mood with brilliantly witty one-liners.
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  • Tina Woodbury
    January 1, 1970
    For all of my reviews: www.readingbetweenthepagesblog.wordpr...3.5 starsFor over a year five young, churchgoing girls have disappeared from Briar County. They are know as the “Briar girls”. The citizens of Grace, Alabama have told their kids not to go out after dark and under no circumstances should they even look in the direction of Hell’s Gate National Forest. The newspapers have nicknamed the perpetrator as “the Bird” and that is how Grace’s citizens now live – in fear of “the Bird”.Out of th For all of my reviews: www.readingbetweenthepagesblog.wordpr...3.5 starsFor over a year five young, churchgoing girls have disappeared from Briar County. They are know as the “Briar girls”. The citizens of Grace, Alabama have told their kids not to go out after dark and under no circumstances should they even look in the direction of Hell’s Gate National Forest. The newspapers have nicknamed the perpetrator as “the Bird” and that is how Grace’s citizens now live – in fear of “the Bird”.Out of the blue another girl has now gone missing, Summer Ryan. Unlike the other five girls, Summer has left a note. Is she the sixth “Briar girl”? Summer’s twin sister Raine has taken matters into her own hands and is determined to leave no stone unturned to find her sister.From the very first page Chris Whitaker does an excellent job of setting the tone for this book. It takes place in the small town of Grace, Alabama. Its citizens have a southern dialect that easily transports you right to the south.This book is dark and heavy. Don’t expect a light, fun mystery – this book is quite the opposite. Through much of the story there is a dark storm cloud hanging over the town of Grace.The bird was back, God sent the cloud ’cause the devil was at work in Hell’s Gate.I wouldn’t call this a religious book, but it very much centers around “the church”. Not just St. Luke’s in Grace, but many other outlying churches. All five girls that disappeared were churchgoers, but not all from the same church.The bell tower at St. Luke’s is something special. It chimes on the hour. Don’t matter if I’m reading or watching Raine swing out over the Silver. I always hear it and I always notice ’cause it’s kinda like the heartbeat of Grace. The atmosphere Chris Whitaker created was fantastic and the last 40% of the book was very intense. It didn’t pull me in and sweep me off my feet as much as I had expected it too, but overall I thought it was a pretty good story. I do appear to be in the minority of how much I enjoyed this book, so I encourage you to give it try.*Thank you NetGalley, Bonnier Zaffre, and Chris Whitaker for the opportunity to read and review this book for my honest opinion.
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  • ireadnovels.wordpress.com
    January 1, 1970
    Review on www.ireadnovels.wordpress.com Raine sometimes complains that nothin excitin is ever gonna happen in Grace again. Daddy told her careful what you wish for.  I loved reading that line as it is a true saying be careful for what you wish for.  How many times has someone said that to you? Summer Ryan went missing in the night hours of May 26. I liked this next line too as I thought it was a rather odd thing to do.... Her daddy called his boys before the cops cause he reckoned they'd move q Review on www.ireadnovels.wordpress.com Raine sometimes complains that nothin excitin is ever gonna happen in Grace again. Daddy told her careful what you wish for.  I loved reading that line as it is a true saying be careful for what you wish for.  How many times has someone said that to you? Summer Ryan went missing in the night hours of May 26. I liked this next line too as I thought it was a rather odd thing to do.... Her daddy called his boys before the cops cause he reckoned they'd move quicker.  In the search for Summer Ryan, Tommy Ryan led them, the missing girl's uncle, he wasn't messing about he wanted to catch the man who took Summer, he carried a gun and a bow and he was handy enough with both. If they caught the guy who took Summer Ryan they'd kill him before calling the cops. Just like all parents worry specially when a girl has gone missing in your area. Other kids were told to be home before dark and stick to streets.  I recommend reading All The Wicked Girls as the story feels very real.
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  • Manon
    January 1, 1970
    DNF @ 51%I was provided an ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.I’m really sorry, I seriously tried. But this has been on my currently-reading shelf for almost a month now and I tried reading it again today and read 20ish pages that I found infuriating.Between the writing style that I really didn’t like (things like “he don’t”) or how cliché the characters were (one “good” twin and a “bad” one, really?) or again the pedophilia seen through the eyes of a 15 years old who “wants” it, DNF @ 51%I was provided an ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.I’m really sorry, I seriously tried. But this has been on my currently-reading shelf for almost a month now and I tried reading it again today and read 20ish pages that I found infuriating.Between the writing style that I really didn’t like (things like “he don’t”) or how cliché the characters were (one “good” twin and a “bad” one, really?) or again the pedophilia seen through the eyes of a 15 years old who “wants” it, it was too much for me...
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  • Tracy Fenton
    January 1, 1970
    My Review: Having only recently discovered Chris Whitaker and raved about Tall Oaks I was rather excited (jumped up and down several times) to receive an advanced copy of his 2nd novel All the Wicked Girls from his publishers. I was told it was nothing like Tall Oaks and quite dark. Dark? Dark doesn’t even begin to describe this book – how about a complete black-out? I found myself reading this book so slowly as I was savouring each page/chapter and character instead of my usual rapid read and t My Review: Having only recently discovered Chris Whitaker and raved about Tall Oaks I was rather excited (jumped up and down several times) to receive an advanced copy of his 2nd novel All the Wicked Girls from his publishers. I was told it was nothing like Tall Oaks and quite dark. Dark? Dark doesn’t even begin to describe this book – how about a complete black-out? I found myself reading this book so slowly as I was savouring each page/chapter and character instead of my usual rapid read and that is because each page is a literal work of art.Chris Whitaker has the ability to pick up the reader and transport them into the fictional small town of Grace, swelter in the heat, feel the fear and tension amongst the town folk and connect with the characters. Once again he created two wonderful characters in Noah and Purv and whilst their stories were heartbreaking, tragic and sad, their friendship and humour made me smile throughout.A beautifully written story of love, friendship, beliefs, fear, passion and I’m not embarrassed to say I cried at the end.
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  • Mike Thomas
    January 1, 1970
    ‘Tall Oaks’, Chris Whitaker’s 2016 novel of small town American intrigue revolving around the disappearance of a three-year-old boy was an incredibly assured debut and trumpeted the arrival of an impressive new talent. Rightly acclaimed, it is a brilliant read, a pitch black yet hilarious and touching tale that brought to mind the work of David Lynch, in particular ‘Twin Peaks’, and films such as ‘Fargo’.So the big question: after such a striking first offering, would Whitaker’s sophomore effort ‘Tall Oaks’, Chris Whitaker’s 2016 novel of small town American intrigue revolving around the disappearance of a three-year-old boy was an incredibly assured debut and trumpeted the arrival of an impressive new talent. Rightly acclaimed, it is a brilliant read, a pitch black yet hilarious and touching tale that brought to mind the work of David Lynch, in particular ‘Twin Peaks’, and films such as ‘Fargo’.So the big question: after such a striking first offering, would Whitaker’s sophomore effort suffer from ‘difficult second album syndrome’? Could he produce the goods again, and cement his reputation as one of the most unique new voices in the crime writing genre?Set in 1994, ‘All the Wicked Girls’ introduces us to the small Bible Belt town of Grace, Alabama, with its people reeling from ‘The Fear’: a series of unsolved disappearances of local girls, all of them church-going, ‘good’ young women. When star student and musical prodigy Summer Ryan vanishes the locals worry that she is yet another victim to add to the ever-growing list. This is the catalyst for Raine, Summer’s troubled sister, and her unlikely sidekicks Noah and Purv to join forces to find the missing girl. What follows is an extraordinary descent into the underbelly of Grace, with its motley collection of disenfranchised characters who are as far removed from ‘The American Dream’ as you could possibly imagine.Back to that big question: does Whitaker pull it off? Well think season one of True Detective and you’re close to the tone and atmosphere of ‘All the Wicked Girls’. But think of the books of Frank Bill and Donald Ray Pollock and Denis Johnson and Daniel Woodrell too, because this – a glorious, seething, sweaty slice of Southern Gothic – is up there with all of them. Possibly even better than some of their work. What Whitaker has produced here is sublime. ‘Tall Oaks’, as great as it is, was just a taste of what the author had in store for readers – this new book is exquisitely written, with the darkest of hearts, but so beautiful and human and moving that it has been reducing people – me included – to tears. There is writing here that makes your jaw drop, and fills you with joy, and makes you close your eyes and wish that you had the ability to craft something as achingly gorgeous.This is a crime novel, yes, but it is so much more than that. It is a study of marginalised folk, of broken dreams, of haunted people just trying to get by. It is uplifting and funny and sad. And it is about friendship and lust and grief and the things we will do for our loved ones, no matter how dark the path it takes us down. But in short, ‘All the Wicked Girls’ is a very special novel, from a very special writer.
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  • Deborah
    January 1, 1970
    Read the full review on my site: https://www.debbish.com/books-literat...It’s 1995 in Grace, Alabama and Summer Ryan has already disappeared by the time this book opens but we’re in her head at various times as the months before her disappearance take shape.And we’re left to wonder if Summer’s joined the ranks of the Briar Girls… five seemingly good church-going girls from Briar county who’ve disappeared; or if this is something completely different.There’s a strong sense of place in this novel… Read the full review on my site: https://www.debbish.com/books-literat...It’s 1995 in Grace, Alabama and Summer Ryan has already disappeared by the time this book opens but we’re in her head at various times as the months before her disappearance take shape.And we’re left to wonder if Summer’s joined the ranks of the Briar Girls… five seemingly good church-going girls from Briar county who’ve disappeared; or if this is something completely different.There’s a strong sense of place in this novel… of small town Alabama which is something Whitaker delivers through the characters’ dialogue; the idiosyncrasies of its residents; the (ahem) interesting religious communities and dodgy preachers; and the sparse terrain, including the Red river and places called Hell’s Gate and similar. And then there’s the menacing storm cloud hovering above the community of Grace.The prose in this novel flow effortlessly and I often stopped to pause and ponder well-written sentences and eloquent phrasing. A lot of these are offered up through Summer’s voice: her thoughts and conversations, as well as her observations.Although Summer narrates from the first person point of view, we’re also privy to unfolding events via her twin Raine, schoolboy and wanna-be cop Noah and the local police chief, all of whom have their fair share of flaws and regrets.I really enjoyed this beautifully voiced novel though found the ending somewhat confusing and perhaps a tad anticlimactic. In fact, I kept having to look back over pages to see if I’d missed anything and look closely at the wording to see who knew what and who was saying what.It could have, and should have, been poignant and heartbreaking (cos it was and was beautifully written and voiced), but the flow was a little interrupted for me, as I flicked through pages to get some clarity around what was happening.So I did enjoy most of the book until the very end (lowering it slightly from an exceptional 4.5 to a very good 4 star rating) and was very impressed by Whitaker’s writing and Summer as a character in particular.
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  • Liz Barnsley
    January 1, 1970
    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 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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  • Nicole Chinnici
    January 1, 1970
    I had very mixed feelings about this book. From the first sentence straight through until the end, I felt such a push and pull between how I felt about it. Let’s just dig in, shall we?All the Wicked Girls is set in the small town of Grace, Alabama. On the one hand, Whitaker immediately immerses you into the story using dialect and tone to convey the scene and show an atmosphere of deterioration and darkness. On the other hand, there is so much dialect that I personally found it hard to connect. I had very mixed feelings about this book. From the first sentence straight through until the end, I felt such a push and pull between how I felt about it. Let’s just dig in, shall we?All the Wicked Girls is set in the small town of Grace, Alabama. On the one hand, Whitaker immediately immerses you into the story using dialect and tone to convey the scene and show an atmosphere of deterioration and darkness. On the other hand, there is so much dialect that I personally found it hard to connect. It took me a few chapters to start to get the flow and I found myself rereading certain passages several times in order to get the gist.The story was told mostly through the perspectives of Summer leading up to her disappearance and her sister, Raine, as she is looking for Summer afterwards, and a few other characters as well. On the one hand, Whitaker’s characterization here is wonderful and each person felt real and unique and complex. On the other hand, the points of view shift so quickly and without warning - sometimes mid-chapter - that I found it to be quite jarring.From the tragic event that was the catalyst for the start of the story to the small town politics to the multiple strands that come together to form a larger picture, this novel decidedly gave me Under the Dome vibes. In addition, there were a lot of religious overtones and so much symbolism! Part of me would love to give this a reread to study these pieces, but given the above, that most likely won’t happen. And even though there was a sense of closure at the end, I did want some more clarity on certain storylines that were left quite open.Although the writing style in All the Wicked Girls wasn’t for me, there is definitely an audience for this book. To be sure, this is a tough read and won’t be for the faint of heart. If you like your crime novels bleak and raw with a side of small town strife, this might be for you. And even though this isn’t horror or science fiction, I strongly feel that anyone who’s a fan of Stephen King’s Under the Dome will like this as well.*Thanks to the publisher for providing an arc of this edition via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Thebooktrail
    January 1, 1970
    Booktrail the locations in the novel hereBooktrail it to AlabamaThat first chapter! hahahahahaAnd it just gets betterReview to come nearer the time but bl**dy funny that's my review right thereAs for the rest...it's dark, moody and very very deep - what is going on? What do these girls go through? What kind of place are they living in?Whittaker wit and adept writing seal the deal for me.The full review - I shall never quite forget that opening chapter. I might even have snorted lemonade such was Booktrail the locations in the novel hereBooktrail it to AlabamaThat first chapter! hahahahahaAnd it just gets betterReview to come nearer the time but bl**dy funny that's my review right thereAs for the rest...it's dark, moody and very very deep - what is going on? What do these girls go through? What kind of place are they living in?Whittaker wit and adept writing seal the deal for me.The full review - I shall never quite forget that opening chapter. I might even have snorted lemonade such was the effect it had on me. Bl**dy funny Mr Whit – taker. Apt name I see.Chris Whittaker is a very talented author indeed. He has a very unique way of writing which creates characters as vivid as they come with speech patterns, body mannerisms that make them stand out even before they’ve walked onto the page. This is one screwed up place he’s put them in – Grace, Alabama, and the result is electrifying. There’s few words I can really use to give this book the justice it deserves but like a car now abandoned on one of Grace’s dust tracks, it skids and slams into your consciousness without an apology or a care,picks itself up and leaves you reeling not quite knowing what just hit you.Satanic panic, religious fervor and a god fearing mystery that’s what. All wrapped up with a Whittaker bow. He’s like a magical word wizard so when you’re reading all kinds of craziness Raines from the sky (sorry) and then BAM the storm comes in for the kill..This is Summer but not as you know it 😉Purv, Sheriff Black…..never a better nor mismatched cast could you ever hope to see in a novel.What a tangled web we weave..All The Wicked Girls
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  • Louise
    January 1, 1970
    4.5 starsThis,is,by far my favourite read of the year.It's dark,it's depressing,everyone in it is broken,and struggling.Yet,it's an amazing book. The characters feel like real people,maybe because of their flaws. The weather itself becomes an actual character in the book.For me,it wasn't a story of a serial killer,the Bird could have been taken out of those pages and not be missed.It was about relationships,with a sister,the best friend,the bottle.I don't mind admitting there was a tear in my ey 4.5 starsThis,is,by far my favourite read of the year.It's dark,it's depressing,everyone in it is broken,and struggling.Yet,it's an amazing book. The characters feel like real people,maybe because of their flaws. The weather itself becomes an actual character in the book.For me,it wasn't a story of a serial killer,the Bird could have been taken out of those pages and not be missed.It was about relationships,with a sister,the best friend,the bottle.I don't mind admitting there was a tear in my eye in last few pages.Many people are getting this for Christmas.May have rushed off and bought his last book too....
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  • Wendy
    January 1, 1970
    Narrated with extraordinary flair, the perfectly refined allusions create classic small town theatre, a claustrophobic stage where the players make valiant attempts to prevent the skeletons in their cupboards from making their escape.This imposing mystery is determined to expose what’s good, bad, and the ugliness sandwiched between. It sees the remarkable cast embrace their roles with such intensity their attitudes radiate from the page. A few are desperate for someone to blame, snatching at bur Narrated with extraordinary flair, the perfectly refined allusions create classic small town theatre, a claustrophobic stage where the players make valiant attempts to prevent the skeletons in their cupboards from making their escape.This imposing mystery is determined to expose what’s good, bad, and the ugliness sandwiched between. It sees the remarkable cast embrace their roles with such intensity their attitudes radiate from the page. A few are desperate for someone to blame, snatching at burred lines before bulldozing right over them. Others are just trying to find their way, misreading the signs and feeling utterly lost.Add to that the presence of an unsettling meteorological phenomenon that coincides with the unsolved disappearances in Grace and its neighbouring towns, leave it to simmer patiently, and then invite the god-fearing folk with their wavering consciences to helplessly watch as the ominous stew boils over. Take it from me it’s superbly done.The script remains deliberately evasive and yet it neglects nothing. Even its dialogue has a natural swagger. And as the story vaults over life’s ill-fated hurdles the young voices with old heads on their shoulders are beacons in the dark – I adored their spirit, flaws and all. All the Wicked Girls is a blinding parade of dark mood and lingering suspicion, one I couldn’t take my eyes off for a second. I genuinely cannot wait for the next book from this exceptionally gifted author.(I received a copy of this title courtesy of the Reader’s First website, with thanks to the publisher, and it’s my pleasure to provide an unbiased review.)
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