This is my first Court Stevens book and I loved it. It combines a few of my niche interests… some that will be explored more thoroughly in later book reviews (is that sinister? I promise it’s not). But if you haven’t heard about The June Boys, let me break it down for you.
It’s 2010, it’s been almost a year since The Gemini Thief kidnapped the boys. Soon they will be released back to their families because that’s what he does every time he kidnaps boys. He takes them in June, keeps them for a year, and then gives them back to their families. No one know who he is, why he does it, or when he’ll do it again. He always returns them alive, until now. A body of one of the missing boys is found dead and it’s all Thea can do to hope it’s not her cousin, Aulus, who she thinks was taken by The Gemini Thief. No one believes her until one fateful clue is found on the body and then everything in Thea’s world is turned upside down.
First off, big fan of this premise. I watch a lot of true crime documentaries and shows so this is something that I’m already very into… as weird as that is to say. I haven’t read many fictional books that make me feel like this is real, there really is this dude who just… steals kids for a year and then gives them back. I read a lot of thrillers and mysteries and while they can be very chilling and engaging, they lack a permanence. What I mean by that is, I never really think of the person after the fact. If it was a serial killer, they don’t feel real enough to stay with me, to keep logged in my brain of all the other serial killers that I’ve learned about. With The June Boys however, I will still find myself thinking about The Gemini Thief like he’s a real dude. That’s WILD.
There were a few things that tripped me up in this book, one of which was the time period. I loved that it wasn’t hitting us over the head with references from that period, but since it wasn’t really established early on when this was all taking place, I felt a bit unmoored and would find myself drifting to, “What year is this taking place in? How does that fit into today?” instead of just focusing on the actual mystery of the story. I also had a hard time with the Elizabeth Letters. I’m not going to explain what they are or anything, but I think the intent was great but it didn’t translate well. I know that other readers have also been kind of thrown by them so I wanted to address it here.
Personally, I really loved the cast of characters. There were a lot, I’m not gonna lie, and this seems to be another thing people had a hard time keeping straight and following. I didn’t have that much of a problem and felt that it added a level of reality to the story. I didn’t miss that these same people complaining about there being too many characters are also people who complain about small casts in mysteries because then your pool of suspects is so small that nothing can be a surprise. I think for those people, you’re going to have to be a bit more decisive and clear about what you want. Personally, I would rather have it like this where there are several characters, you know varying levels of detail about them and you peel back small things over time and it allows you to natural question and rule them out as you go along. That way twists can happen that make you go, “NO! But I like you!!!” Isn’t that what you want? It’s what I want anyway…
I can’t wait to pick up more books from this author, their backlist is fairly long and I’m excited. I already own Dress Codes for Small Towns and that’s a bit of a different style so that’ll be fun to explore. I want Stevens to write more books like this though. They clearly have a flair for true crime and I am ALL IN. Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an eARC, it was not wasted in the slightest!