Publisher: Michael Joseph
Pub Date: 21st January 2021
Review Date: 8th January 2021
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 . . .
Right from the outset, nothing is as it first appears in this creepy thriller. The protagonist, Jack, is the new vicar in the village of Chapel Croft, who’s arrived with teenage daughter, Flo. At first, I thought Jack was Flo’s father, but it’s not long before we discover that Jack is Flo’s mother, and there’s a secret buried in her past that’s steadily rising to the surface. But has she escaped her demons? Or is she heading deeper into the flames of hell?
As they move into their new home, Jack and Flo are immediately thrust into a horrifying scene when a young girl appears at the vicarage covered in blood. The girl is Poppy, who in a frantic state, says that Pippa is being murdered. But this is the first in a string of incidents that foreshadows the novel’s clever twists and turns, where the eye is constantly playing tricks on the mind. You’re never quite sure whether Jack and Flo are tapping into a darker force, or are victims of more tangible, yet equally terrifying trickery.
We soon learn Poppy is covered in pig’s blood. Pippa is a pig (called Peppa, not Pippa). Poppy is the daughter of Simon Harper, owner of the local abattoir and an upstanding member of the community. He also provides financial support for the church. His ancestors are the Sussex martyrs who were burned to death 500 years ago. Poppy has an older sister, Rosie – who’s around the same age as Flo. But Flo and Rosie are nothing alike, and rather than becoming friends, they become enemies.
But are the Harper family who they portray themselves to be? What skeletons do they have lying in their closet? Not only is there confusion over what is true, there’s also doubt over who can be trusted. Tudor pulls you in to her convincing three-dimensional characters, making them utterly believable. Then whoosh, the rug is pulled from under your feet.
The Burning Girls was a real page-turner for me. The novel is well-structured. I loved the short chapters and how easy it was to get sucked into reading just one more chapter. Contemporary issues of bullying, both with teens and adults alike, alongside Jack's maternal instinct to protect Flo, sets the novel as domestic noir. The stomach-churning incidents executed by the person who is out to find Jack, as well as goings-on of the past, also pushes it into the crime genre. Satanic tales of the past, as well as the novel’s spooky setting, places the novel as horror. I wouldn’t normally choose to read something so creepy as this, but it was utterly addictive and completely unputdownable. It’s definitely a book where both plot and characters will stay with me!
I would recommend this book for fans of Stephen King, Louise Jensen, or Elizabeth Hill.
About the Author
C. J. Tudor lives with her partner and young daughter. Her love of writing, especially the dark and macabre, started young. When her peers were reading Judy Blume, she was devouring Stephen King and James Herbert. Over the years she has had a variety of jobs, including trainee reporter, radio scriptwriter, dog walker, voiceover artist, television presenter, copywriter and, now, author. Her first novel, The Chalk Man, was a Sunday Times bestseller and sold in thirty-nine territories.
Thank you to the author and publisher for an Advance Review Copy of this book.
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