THE latest novel by bestselling Bristol author Emily Koch was inspired by her next door neighbour.
What July Knew, which hits the shelves this month, is a moving family mystery set in the 90s about a girl trying to solve the mystery of her mother’s death. Ten-year-old July Hooper knows 18 facts about her mum – but not the truth of what has happened to her. Now, in the summer of 1995, that’s about to change.
But the idea for the book didn’t begin with July, its loveable central character. It started with Emily’s former next door neighbour, Nikki, in Bishopston.
Emily, who still lives in Bishopston, said: “One day, several years ago, I heard a heavily pregnant Nikki cry out through the party wall. I thought I was going to have to deliver her baby! It later became clear that I had overreacted, but it got me thinking, what if…? I can’t say too much more about that without spoilers!”
That idea began to intertwine with a news story Emily had covered back in 2013, when she worked as a journalist at the Bristol Post, about the horrific murder of Bijan Ebrahimi.
Emily said: “Bijan was killed by a vigilante mob of neighbours who wrongly believed he was a paedophile. I’ve thought of him often and about what happens when communities get the wrong idea about one of their own. What happens when neighbours turn on each other? What is the fallout of vigilante justice?”
The decision to set the book in the 90s came as a reaction to the pandemic – Emily started writing What July Knew during the first lockdown.
She said: “I ran away from the present and escaped to the 90s, when I grew up. It worked for the book and it worked for me personally – it was comforting to spend those hours each day living in a world of lava lamps, Judy Blume novels, Flumps, and The Body Shop White Musk perfume.”
Emily is an award-winning author of two previous novels, If I Die Before I Wake and Keep Him Close. Her books have made the shortlist for the Crime Writers’ Association Steel Dagger award, won a French crime fiction award, been longlisted for the Authors’ Club Best First Novel Award, and been selected as a Waterstones Thriller of the Month. Waterstones said her second novel ‘cements Koch’s place as one of the most exciting new crime writers of our day.’
What July Knew will be released in hardback, e-book and audio formats on 9 February, 2023. A limited number of signed and personalised copies are available for pre-order from Henleaze bookshop Max Minerva’s.
Emily Koch at home in Bishopston Picture: Barbara Evripidou