Today I’m delighted to be sharing my thoughts on The Burning Girls by CJ Tudor. I’ve been a fan of the author’s books since the start and each new book makes me excited to get reading, this was no exception. Thanks to publisher Michael Joseph for providing an advance copy for review. Here’s what the book is all about:
About the Book
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 . . .
If there is one thing you can rely on CJ Tudor for, it is to pack in the chill factor into her stories. The Burning Girls is a kind of mystery crossed with folklore and ghostly goings on that kept me completely intrigued from the very beginning. Chapel Croft is no ordinary village. and Jack is no ordinary Vicar. Certainly not the kind that the villagers were expecting, anyway. When she moves with her daughter, Flo, to the supposedly sleepy village, it is meant to be a temporary move, but no-one could predict what will happen when she arrives. The village is awash with legends and the chapel over which she will preside reputedly haunted by two young girls who were killed before the chapel many years before. Superstition and legend has it that if the girls appear to you, a tragedy will surely follow ….
Now if you were being judgmental, you’d think that being forced to move from a comfortable existence in Nottingham to the middle of nowhere was tragedy enough. Some people like to live in the country, enjoy the quiet life. Those people are definitely not Jack and Flo. But determined as she is to make the best of it and make a difference, Jack launches into the country life. I liked Jack as a character. She was not. your typical Vicar, more Geraldine Grainger in style in that she is completely down to earth and accepting of what really draws people to religion – a need to believe in something – rather than an overwhelming belief in one single God. She is quite astute and although it is clear that there are things from her past that we don’t fully understand yet, you immediately feel as though you can trust her.
Less so the other residents of Chapel Croft. They are a very peculiar and ismitached bunch, each with their own strange characteristics and tics, something that CJ Tudor is so adept at winding into the story, making you automatically suspicious of them all, even, or maybe especially, the clergy. There is a real sense of the village setting in the way in which traditions are always followed and everyone seems to know everyone else. But there is also a real history to the village, one beset with tragedy that goes way beyond the murder of the two eponymous ‘Burning’ girls.
The story is threaded with threat and underlying tension. There is a mystery that weaves in and out of the present day narrative – the disappearance of two best friends a couple of decades earlier – and this partly drives the present day action as Jack strives to find out what really happened to the girls. Against this we have Flo and her struggle to settle in a village which is a miles from her friends and from all that she knows. She is definitely an outsider and rubs up against the local teens in a ways that will shock and have readers on edge.
There is a real chill factor to this story, that sense of the otherworldly spirits guiding the action. Tension and pacing ebbs and flows drawing us on to the discovery of something rather macabre and a show down that really does get the heart pumping. With a real sense of place, characters who you will be rooting for, and others for whom you will have a significant amount of mistrust, this was a book that I devoured and that left me completely satisfied. This is not your typical ghost story but it is certainly entertaining and will keep fans of the author rapt.
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.