Welcome to Chapel Croft. Five hundred years ago, eight protestant martyrs were burned at the stake here. Thirty years ago, two teenage girls disappeared without a trace. And two months ago, the vicar of the local parish killed himself. Reverend Jack Brooks, a single parent with a fourteen-year-old daughter and a heavy conscience, arrives in the village hoping to make a fresh start and find some peace. Instead, Jack finds a town mired in secrecy and a strange welcome package: an old exorcism kit and a note quoting scripture. “But there is nothing covered up that will not be revealed and hidden that will not be known.”
The more Jack and daughter Flo get acquainted with the town and its strange denizens, the deeper they are drawn into their rifts, mysteries, and suspicions. And when Flo is troubled by strange sightings in the old chapel, it becomes apparent that there are ghosts here that refuse to be laid to rest.
But uncovering the truth can be deadly in a village where everyone has something to protect, everyone has links with the village’s bloody past, and no one trusts an outsider.
Hi and welcome to my review of The Burning Girls! I requested the ARC from NetGalley, sure I’d never be approved, but hey, it’s C.J. Tudor, one must try against all odds. And apparently bookish miracles do happen and here we are!
First of all I must tell you that I have learnt not to wear socks when reading a C.J. Tudor, as she blows them clean off every single time. High expectations? Me?! Of course not, don’t know what you’re talking about! In any case, it doesn’t matter, since The Burning Girls was every bit as amazing as I knew it would be!
By the time I’d reached the end of the shocking, gasp-inducing and highly intriguing prologue, I’d already fallen for The Burning Girls hook, line and sinker. No, actually even before that, with the Wikipedia entry explaining that burning girls are twig dolls to set alight to commemorate the Sussex Martyrs, two of whom were young girls, who were burnt at the stake during Queen Mary’s purge of Protestants. Just an itty-bitty text but it set my spine tingling with anticipation, that feeling you get when you know you’re in for a bookish treat.
The Burning Girls kicks off with Reverend Jack Brooks, and Flo, Jack’s daughter, forced to relocate to the small Sussex village of Chapel Croft, which is currently without a priest, since the last one killed himself. Minutes after their arrival, they meet a blood-soaked girl in the garden, and later that evening, Jack finds an exorcism kit, including a rather unorthodox set of knives. Something is clearly a little off in Chapel Croft.
And then Jack is told that the twig dolls they’ve been finding everywhere aren’t meant for commemoration, but rather to ward off the vengeful spirits of the girls who took refuge in the chapel, but were betrayed and caught, tortured and killed. Which would be fairly easy to dismiss if it wasn’t for Flo who is 100% sure she has actually seen the spirit of one of the girls.
The death of two girls hundreds of years ago, the disappearance of two girls thirty years ago, the apparent suicide of a man of the cloth, the arrival of a new vicar, chequered pasts, ghost stories. Once again, C.J. Tudor has struck the right balance between thriller and horror, creating a story that will appeal to fans of both genres. A mystery, a thriller with an occult thread woven into the story, it works like a charm on me, and it’s what C.J. Tudor does like a queen!
The village of Chapel Croft and its residents emit a perfect Twin Peaks vibe. I just love that kind of creepy small town setting with its folklore and its one family that seems to have a finger in every pie and its oddballs, with everything and everyone, even the most benign, coming across as suspicious.
Except of course that one person I trusted blindly who turned out to be the least trustworthy of them all, I’m the worst judge of character!
I loved Jack and Flo as main characters. Modern opinions, firmly rooted in everyday life, genuinely in it for helping people, delightfully sarcastic and not opposed to occasional swearing, Jack is a brilliant priest. Although, like many other Chapel Croft residents, not quite without secrets…
I remember saying that The Other People would be a tough act to follow but The Burning Girls pulls it off. It sucked me in, chewed me up and spat me out a dazed mess, and I mean that in the best possible way! Nothing what it seems, The Burning Girls is a twisty and twisted story that kept me captivated and intrigued throughout and one I’d highly recommend!
The Burning Girls is out today, get it now!
Huge thanks to Michael Joseph and NetGalley for the eARC! All opinions are my own.