Book Reviews

Book Review: The Burning Girls by C.J. Tudor

An unconventional vicar moves to a remote corner of the English countryside, only to discover a community haunted by death and disappearances both past and present–and intent on keeping its dark secrets–in this explosive, unsettling thriller from acclaimed author C. J. Tudor.
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

Title: The Burning Girls
Author: C.J. Tudor
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Format: Digital ARC
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Date Published:  February 9th 2021

Rating: 4.8//5 Owls

The thing I love about C. J. Tudor’s writing is that without a doubt, you will be confused for about 80% of the story. The story will suck you in enough to keep you reading, but there are pieces of the puzzle that make absolutely zero sense, until you get to the end and suddenly every tiny piece comes together in a nice “holy shit” wrap up.

This story centers around Jack and her daughter Flo. After some bad press back home, Jack is the new reverend of Chapel Croft, where things are not quite right. Between the last Reverend committing suicide, ghostly apparitions in the cemetery, and the mysterious disappearance of Merry and Joy years ago, there’s a lot of weirdness happening in Chapel Croft.

So lets break down the mysterious:

  1. We have Jack’s mysterious past, whose stalking her, and what happened with the little girl back home.
  2. The ghosts that Flo is seeing in the graveyard
  3. The disappearance of Merry and Joy 30 or so years prior.
  4. The mysterious suicide of the former Reverend and the secrets hidden within the church.
  5. Strange behaviors and mysterious within the residents of Chapel Croft and the secrets they’re hiding.

So we have FIVE major mysteries in this small town tale, and the way they all come to together is absolutely brilliant. Our main mystery is what is currently happening in Chapel Croft, and how both Flo and Jack are sucked into it all. One thing I really liked about this was the paranormal aspect of this story. There’s a few elements that seem to be supernatural, but you’re not quite sure if it really is, or if there’s more going on. (you know, like everything else in the book).

There’s a lot of small clues to the secret of these mysteries, but its not always easy to pick up on them. One of the main mysteries I *sort of* pieced together early on, but I wasn’t 100% sure if I was right and kept having “wait this doesn’t fit into my theory” moments, but when everything finally came together it fit perfectly!

As a priest, I talk a lot about honest, but I’m a hypocrite. Honesty is an overrated virtue. The only real difference between a truth and a lie is how many time you repeat it.

One thing I absolutely loved about this book was how hard it was to separate the “good guys” vs the “bad guys”. The majority of them are more like “morally grey bad-leaning guys” or “I seem like a bad-guy but apparently I am secretly not”. Some characters that I hated in the beginning, I grew to love at the end. And some that I loved, were my least favorites by the time I was done.

My absolute favorite character in this book was Jack. Now I don’t know anything about vicars and reverends, but I can’t imagine everyone that wears that little white collar acts quite like Jack. She is truly her own person and lives (mostly) by her own rules. She is the type to fight to bring church standards into modern times, lets her daughter decide her own faith, and bends the rules a little bit. We slowly learn more about Jack as the story goes on, her past, the story of what happened to Ruby, and her husband.

The girl draws closer, flaming hands outstretched. Flo can feel the heat, smell the stench of roasting flesh, hear the sizzle of her skin crisping.

Okay this review is getting VERY rambled. It’s so hard to talk about mystery/thriller novels without accidentally revealing details or plot twists.

So I’ll finish with this, The Burning Girls, will keep you sucked in until the very last page. If you pay close enough attention, you’ll discover the secrets to a few of the mysteries as the story goes on, but everything will come together. This is now the third book of Tudor’s that I’ve read, and I cannot wait to see what she comes up with next. Her writing is compelling, and keeps you intrigued and wrapped up in the mystery.

*Thank you Kathleen Quinlan and NetGalley for the advanced copy of this book. All opinions are my own.

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