They were a few weeks apart but it bodes well for 2021 that I read two books that I’m rating an easy 4.5 stars – a very rare honour in my world. The first was Linwood Barclay’s new release Find You First and the second, The Burning Girls by CJ Tudor.
This is the third book I’ve read by Tudor but I don’t think it’d appeared in any new release catalogues that I recall so I sent a query after seeing her talk about the book on Twitter. I’d missed her 2020 release, The Other People, but heard great things about it. And thank god I chased for a copy because I freakin’ loved this book. There’s a fabulous twist early and they really don’t stop coming.The Burning Girls
by C.J. Tudor
Published by Michael Joseph
Source: Penguin Random House Australia
Genres: Thriller / Suspense, Psychological Thriller
500 years ago: eight martyrs were burnt to death
30 years ago: two teenagers vanished without trace
Two months ago: the vicar committed suicide
Welcome to Chapel Croft.
For Rev Jack Brooks and teenage daughter Flo it's supposed to be a fresh start. New job, new home. But, as Jack knows, the past isn't easily forgotten.
And in a close-knit community where the residents seem as proud as they are haunted by Chapel Croft's history, Jack must tread carefully. Ancient superstitions as well as a mistrust of outsiders will be hard to overcome.
Yet right away Jack has more frightening concerns.
Why is Flo plagued by visions of burning girls?Who's sending them sinister, threatening messages?And why did no one mention that the last vicar killed himself?
Chapel Croft's secrets lie deep and dark as the tomb. Jack wouldn't touch them if not for Flo - anything to protect Flo.
But the past is catching up with Chapel Croft - and with Jack. For old ghosts with scores to settle will never rest . . .
What delightful characters Tudor offers us in Jack and Flo. I loved their relationship and there’s some interesting insights into how kids perceive their parents’ relationships and how parents protect their children from the harsh realities of life.
We’re told from the get-go that Jack had some ‘issue’ at a previous posting and has kinda been shuffled off to Chapel Croft. But no one knows Jack also has a history with the town. I think – once we become privy to a few of the town’s secrets – it’s possible to guess Jack’s connection to the place but Tudor ekes out the history of the community and its residents very cleverly.
It’s hard to talk too much about this book without giving too much away. Tudor offers us some very black / white characters and in many we get what we see or expect; but in others there are surprises. It’s a reminder about making judgements and assumptions. And sadly a reminder also that others can be devious and manipulative.
I liked Tudor’s take on religion here. We learn that Jack almost ‘fell’ into it as a profession after some early-life challenges and sees it as much as a way of helping others as being about god and stuff. There’s also a glimpse at the extremes of religion: those who take comfort in it and guidance from it; and those who perhaps use it less-healthily as a crutch or camouflage.
This book is brilliantly paced and I was surprised at its twists and turns. I felt Tudor possibly over-complicated the plot in a few areas, offering up some threads that distracted me from the central narrative, though others may think those same elements added texture. Either way I certainly recommend this.
The Burning Girls by CJ Tudor was published by Penguin Random House in January 2021.
I received a copy of this book for review purposes.