The Burning Girls by C.J. Tudor

"Guilt is a little like grief. A cancer of the soul. They both hollow you out from the inside."

The rural community of Chapel Croft is a town haunted by its past. Five hundred years ago several Protestant martyrs, including young girls, were burned at the stake in a religious purge. Locals still commemorate that horrific history by constructing a monument to them and leaving twig dolls around town, gifts for the burning girls. The more recent history of the city is no less tragic. Around thirty years ago, two teenage girls disappeared without a trace. Yes, Chapel Croft is no stranger to misfortune. It is the kind of place where everyone knows everyone else and all of their business. At the center of this community lies the church, a parish that has recently faced a tragedy of its own. After years of serving the town and living as part of the community, the town vicar has committed suicide. 

Reverend Jack Brooks is no stranger to tragedy. In fact, it was a tragedy at her previous inner-city parish that prompted her reassignment to quiet Chapel Croft. Relocating herself and her teenage daughter Flo isn't easy, but she's hopeful that a new town will bring the opportunity for a fresh start. Right out of the gate, however, Jack is greeted by a foreboding welcome at the front door of the ramshackle cottage she will call home. As Jack and her daughter integrate into the town, they both begin to experience reminders of the town's torrid history, figurative and literal ghosts of the past. In the coming days, the pair will be forced to reckon with not only the history of their new home town but the personal secrets they harbor as well. 

"But there is nothing covered up that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known. Accordingly, whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in the inner rooms will be proclaimed upon the housetops."-Luke 12:2-3

In The Burning Girls, C.J. Tudor deftly explores religion, parenthood, trauma, and grief, all packaged in the guise of a supernatural thriller. I've enjoyed each of her works since her debut novel The Chalk Man, so I was happy to accept a copy of this latest novel from her publisher. That first book has been my favorite of her three published works, but this newest easily surmounts that one to take the top place. There is a richness to the dialogue between mother and daughter, a sense of normalcy and reality that perfectly balances with the supernatural horror elements. The history of the town imbues the story with the depth of a real place. I couldn't help but keep reading. I just had to learn more about these characters and this place. 

Tudor is no stranger to balancing multiple perspectives in her writing, and The Burning Girls sees her present the story through a mother, a daughter, and one other character whose identity and motivations remain a mystery for the majority of the book. With each viewpoint, we gain a clearer portrait of what has occurred in this town and where this story is headed. The three points converge in a way that both thrills and satisfies. The best novels capture your attention as you read, but also linger in your mind long after you finish the final page. The Burning Girls is that kind of novel. Whether you're looking for a thoughtful meditation on religion, a harrowing story of a mother and daughter learning to live and love each other, or a "can't put down" thriller that keeps you reading into all hours of the night, you'll find what you're looking for in this book. The Burning Girls is the best novel C.J. Tudor has written thus far and has me brimming with excitement for whatever tale she conjures up next. 

For more information visit the author's website, Amazon, and Goodreads

(2021, 7)

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20 Responses to “The Burning Girls by C.J. Tudor”

  1. This is truly not what I expected it to be, especially the focus/ presence of religion.

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    1. It really subverts any expectations, which makes it one heck of a thriller!

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  2. I like Tudor's writing a lot and am very excited to read this one! :D

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  3. I enjoyed The Chalkman and need to add this to my list. Fantastic review Ethan!

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    1. If you enjoyed The Chalk Man, then you'll love this!

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  4. It sounds like the author did an amazing job combining all those different elements. I will admit, I am always a bit wary of books with any religious undertones, but I am glad to hear this was a solid hit for you.

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    1. I wouldn't let the religious elements deter you. There's nothing preachy about this book, it is just a part of the character that she grapples with.

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  5. I am so jealous! I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy!

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  6. Wow, this sounds like it's a lot all rolled into one. I'm intrigued.

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    1. It definitely is a lot, but handled really well. It never feels like too much.

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  7. I agree, the best stories capture your attention but then linger in your thoughts long after. The Night Swim recently did that for me. This sounds really good, too! I'll have to check it out. Wonderful review!

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  8. I love books that can pull of different POVS and still be thrilling and with some questions in there.

    Thanks for another great book to put on my TBR!

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  9. I've heard a lot of great things about this book and after reading your review I'm going to add it to my audiobook list.

    Karen @ For What It's Worth

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    1. You really can't go wrong with any of Tudor's books!

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