The Girls Left Behind by Emily Gunnis

The Girls Left Behind by Emily Gunnis

A decades old murder, a family secret …



When I was invited on this tour, and read the synopsis of the book, I thought this would be a straightforward detective drama, involving a cold case.

But in fact, The Girls Left Behind offers much more than that. It is a story that takes three genres – murdery mystery, family drama and saga and blends them into one in a tale that goes backwards and forwards across the years.

In 1975, young policewoman Jo Hamilton is called to a domestic dispute. In trying to calm the situation, she inadvertently causes a devastating tragedy that will haunt her for the rest of her career.

As a result of it, two little girls are taken into care, into the same orphanage from which a 15-year-old girl had recently run away, only to turn up dead on the beach the next morning. Had she really killed herself?

Fast forward 40 years, and in the closing days of Jo’s retirement, the skeletal remains of another young girl are found near the orphanage.

The narrative then goes back and forward in time from 1975 to 1985 to 2015 as Jo sets out to discover who the girl is and what happened to her.

She’s convinced it’s linked to events involving the other dead young girl. But for some reason, her superiors are blocking her investigation.

Meanwhile, her mother lies dying in a nursing home, reflecting over her wartime experiences at Bletchley. How is her story connected to this one? All will be revealed …

This story drew me in

This was a sound murder mystery investigation with sympathetic characters, and enough clues to help the reader along to the final denouement.

Told from the viewpoint of Jo and Daisy, grown-up sister of one of the missing girls, it moved back and forward through forty years with ease.

I did sometimes felt the 1940s’ running narrative about the Bletchley years, told to Daisy by Jo’s mother, interrupted the pace and flow of the story of Jo’s investigation. Sometimes it felt as if I was reading a murder mystery, at other times it was a wartime saga.

And though I enjoy both genres, it was the murder-mystery told over forty years that drew me in and kept me reading.

But fans of both genres will enjoy the fusion of styles, and family secrets are all part of the drama.

The story-telling was good, the style reminiscent of Lesley Pearse books, with the characters reflecting the times they live in.

My heart went out to all the unloved girls in the story.

Jo’s care, compassion and determination to make what amends she could to them was, for me, the story’s real strength.

The Girls Left Behind by Emily Gunnis is published by Headline Review in paperback and ebook


author photo of Emily GunnisAbout the Author

Emily Gunnis says, “I’ve wanted to be an author since my mum, Penny Vincenzi, got her first book deal when I was 13. We’d spend hours walking and talking in our favourite place, The Gower Peninsula, about the worlds her characters inhabited and unpicking any plot dead ends she’d found herself in. I absolutely loved it – this is what I wanted to do!

“My debut novel, The Girl in the Letter, has sold nearly half a million copies worldwide and been translated into 17 languages! This was closely followed by The Missing Daughter and The Midwifes Secret.

“I live in Sussex with my husband Steve and our two beautiful, crazy, girls, Grace and Eleanor.”

Find Emily on X @EmilyGunnis

Follow her on Instagram @EmilyGunnis

Find her on Facebook @EmilyGunnisAuthor

Visit her website


Thanks to Isabelle Wilson of Headline for inviting me along on this tour, and to Netgalley for an advance copy of this book. Catch up with the rest of the blogtour through the links on the poster.





More stories of family secrets

The Hidden Years by Rachel Hore

Betrayal by Lesley Pearse

The Letter Home by Rachael English



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