#BookReview: What July Knew by Emily Koch @HarvillSecker #WhatJulyKnew #damppebbles


Like number thirteen: she loved dancing on the kitchen table. And number eight: she was covered in freckles.

And then there’s number two: she died after being hit by a car when July was small.

She keeps this list hidden in a drawer away from her father. Because they’re not allowed to talk about her mother. Ever.

But an anonymous note slipped into July’s bag on her tenth birthday is about to change everything she thinks she knows about her mum.

Determined to discover what really happened to her, July begins to investigate, cycling around the neighbourhood where her family used to live. There she meets someone who might finally have the answers.

July wants her family to stop lying to her, but will the truth be harder to face?”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of What July Knew by Emily Koch. What July Knew is published by Harvill Secker today (that’s Thursday 9th February 2023) and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow. I chose to read a free ARC of What July Knew but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Kate at Harvill Secker for sending me a proof copy.

Emily Koch is not a new author to me. I had the pleasure of reading If I Die Before I Wake back in 2018 and it kind of blew my mind. I loved it for many reasons but one of the most memorable things about the book was how emotional it was. I’m not a crier. Fiction does not make me cry. But If I Die Before I Wake nearly broke me. So when offered the chance to read Koch’s latest book, I jumped at it. Based on my experience of IIDBIW I knew it was going to pull on my heartstrings, particularly with 10 year old lead, July Hooper, at the helm.

July Hooper lives at home with her father, step-mother and step-sister. Her mother tragically died in a car accident when she was tiny but July keeps a list of 18 facts she has gleaned from friends and family over the years. A list which she keeps hidden from her father as they’re not allowed to talk about her mother. On her 10th birthday July’s world is turned upside down when an anonymous note is slipped into her bag. The note claims that what July thought she knew about her mother’s death – that she died in a car accident – isn’t true. July is determined to discover what really happened and bravely starts her own investigation, venturing out on her brand new bike to the street her family used to live in. But the truth may be harder to face than July ever imagined…

What July Knew is a beautifully written mystery with a brave, inspirational young lead who stole my heart. It’s impossible to not warm to July. She’s quietly confident in herself (despite not being one of the popular kids at school) and radiates so much warmth to the reader. Koch has created such a well-rounded, multi-layered character in July and I appreciated every moment I spent in her company. I felt fully invested in July’s plight. I could feel how desperate she was for someone (anyone!) to tell her the truth about her mother, whether it be related to her death or any other tiny, insignificant (to anyone else but July) fact that would help her see what kind of woman she was. It was such an absorbing, heart breaking story which hooked me in and didn’t let go.

The pace moves along gently but fitted the story perfectly, drawing the reader into July’s world of Body Shop perfume (clearly White Musk, not Dewberry!), Pogs and so much mid-90s nostalgia that I was in heaven! (Granted, I was a little older than July in 1995 but not by much!) The supporting cast of characters are all well-written and have something important to contribute to the story. One character in particular made my blood boil. They have an ever-present, quiet malevolence about them which the author has pitched perfectly. The threat they emanate is palpable and when they were on the page I had to fight the urge to cover my eyes. I didn’t want to look just in case things took a turn for the worse. Things frequently take a turn for the worse and my heart broke repeatedly for July.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. What July Knew is an unforgettable tale featuring one of the bravest, most likeable characters I have met in a long time. It was emotional, immersive and a joy to read from start to finish. So much so, I feel a little bereft now it’s over! This family-driven mystery does have its darker moments which some readers may struggle with, but the author has approached the subject with sensitivity. It’s clear Koch cares deeply for July and that warmth radiates from the page. All in all, this is an incredibly well-crafted novel from a writer I have enormous respect for. Koch is able to wrap so much emotion up in her novels that it frequently breaks my cold, black heart. And there’s only one other writer on this planet able to do that! Beautifully written, superb characterisation and perfectly plotted. Highly recommended.

I chose to read and review a free ARC of What July Knew. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

What July Knew by Emily Koch was published in the UK by Harvill Secker on 9th February 2023 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsdamppebbles bookshop.org shopdamppebbles amazon.co.uk shopdamppebbles amazon.com shop |

Emily KochEmily Koch is an award-winning writer living in Bristol, UK, with her husband and daughters. She is the author of three novels: If I Die Before I Wake, Keep Him Close and What July Knew.

Her books have been shortlisted for the Crime Writers’ Association Ian Fleming Steel Dagger award, longlisted for the Authors’ Club Best First Novel Award, and selected as a Waterstones Thriller of the Month. The French translation of If I Die Before I Wake also won the inaugural crime fiction prize, Prix du Bureau des Lecteurs, in 2021.

If I Die Before I Wake was described as ‘a debut to be reckoned with’ (Guardian), and others have called her work ‘exhilarating’ (Daily Mail), ‘twisty, emotional and addictive’ (The Sun) and ‘tense drama’ (The Times). Waterstones have called her ‘one of the most exciting new crime writers of our day’.

What July Knew is available now.

4 thoughts on “#BookReview: What July Knew by Emily Koch @HarvillSecker #WhatJulyKnew #damppebbles

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s