The Drift by C.J. Tudor

Today I’m sharing my thoughts on The Drift, the brand new thriller from C.J. Tudor and wishing the author a happy publication day. I’ve really enjoyed the author’s previous titles so was delighted to be gifted an advance copy of the books by Penguin via Netgalley. Here’s what it’s all about:

Source: Netgalley
Publication Date: 19 January 2023
Publisher: Penguin

About the Book

Survival can be murder . . .

During a deadly snowstorm, Hannah awakens to carnage, all mangled metal and shattered glass. Evacuated from a secluded boarding school, her coach careered off the road, trapping her with a handful of survivors.

Meg awakens to a gentle rocking. She’s in a cable car stranded high above snowy mountains, with five strangers and no memory of how they got on board.

Carter is gazing out of the window of an isolated ski chalet that he and his companions call home. As their generator begins to waver in the storm, the threat of something lurking in the chalet’s depths looms larger.

Outside, the storm rages. Inside one group, a killer lurks.

But which one?

And who will make it out alive?

My Thoughts

Dark, twisted and steeped in atmosphere. The Drift, the brand new novel from CJ Tudor has all the hallmarks of exactly my kind of read. It’s got that Stephen King vibe, that kind of underlying tension that flows through his earlier horror novels like ‘Salem’s Lot, but rather than being face with vampires, the characters in this truly chilling novel are trying to shield themselves from a rapidly spreading virus which has cause devastation across the globe. Whilst some of its victims are killed outright, there are others, the unfortunate many, who are almost abandoned to cope with the long term side effects. It appears there may actually be a fate worse than death. Think Long Covid meets The Walking Dead and the truth lies somewhere in between.

This is a very cleverly crafted novel, the book focusing on three very different groups of people. The first is a bus load of students who have been evacuated from school to the relative safety of ‘The Retreat’. On route they are involved in a crash which leaves them trapped and isolated in an ever increasing storm. The threat, however, comes not only from the rapid drop in temperature, but from something that they are carrying with them. Add to that an unexpected complication with one of the passengers and the stakes could not be higher. The scenes set amongst the characters on the bus are ones which get the adrenalin racing, and the author has really managed to get across the sense of fear, and mistrust that exists between the passengers. Some are nursing secrets which will prove pivotal to what comes to pass, that are carefully drip fed into the story to keep the action tight and the conflict at fever pitch – ironically one of the key symptoms of the virus too …

The second group are a bunch of strangers, again on their way to ‘The Retreat’ who wake to find themselves suspended in the air when the cable car they are travelling in brakes down. Again, the heavy storm conditions, the mistrust between the people in the carriage, and the discovery of a dead body amongst them ensures that everything is balanced on a knife edge. Literally. This is the ultimate in locked room mysteries, but as we soon learn, there is far more than meets the eye to each and every one of the people here. I love that kind of prowling feeling that the author creates here. That sense that any one of them could be responsible for the murder, but that they would sell each other out in a heartbeat if they had the chance to escape, adding conflict to an already impossible situation.

In the final grouping we are brought to the most classic, and atmospheric of settings – The Retreat itself. We slowly but surely learn more about the progression of the virus and the real impacts of what has gone before, but it is a scenario that also sets up more questions than answers. We don’t have a lot of time to get to like the majority of characters, each being picked off in a very reminiscent of your classic horror movies – a Friday 13th or Halloween-esque move. Perhaps not quite so brutal, although there is one of the victims who suffers a somewhat unexpected and gut churning fate. The longer we spend in the company of these characters, the less I trusted them, with the possible exception of Carter. He is the man who doesn’t fit with the rest. The one whose presence is the most questionable and yet, strangely, the lease suspicious of them all.

CJ Tudor has pieced together the different parts of this puzzle so very carefully, but also very cleverly. It’s like watching someone put together a 1000 piece jigsaw without the lid to guide them. You know the pieces go together somehow, but it takes some time for the full picture to be revealed. There did come a point where the link between the three different stories became obvious, a slap to the forehead moment that made me more intrigued to see how the whole thing would play out. And, true to form, although you may think you know where the story is going, be prepared for some superb twists as the author leads us to a shocking, but almost inevitable conclusion. Clearly inspired by the what-ifs of Covid and the prolonged lockdowns, I only hope this remains a work of imagination and not a portent of what could come to pass … Recommended and fans of the author’s work will love it.

About the Author

C. J. Tudor is the author of A Sliver of Darkness, The Burning Girls, The Other People, The Hiding Place, and The Chalk Man, which won the International Thriller Writers Award for Best First Novel and the Strand Critics Award for Best Debut Novel. Over the years she has worked as a copywriter, television presenter, voice-over artist, and dog walker. She is now thrilled to be able to write full-time, and doesn’t miss chasing wet dogs through muddy fields all that much. She lives in England with her partner and daughter. 

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