Ghosts, changelings and secrets abound in C.J. Tudor's new thriller

Tudor is a terrific storyteller. No wonder Stephen King thinks she's the real deal

03 March 2019 - 00:00 By Michele Magwood

Published in the Sunday Times (03/03/2019)

With this new thriller C.J. Tudor kicks to the kerb the dreaded second-book syndrome.

After her bestselling debut novel The Chalk Man, which Lee Child described as "A cold blade on the back of your neck", Tudor creeps steadily on with another up-all-nighter.

We're not sure we like the narrator Joe Thorne; at first he seems a good sort, a mildly disabled young teacher who returns to his drab hometown in the north of England to take up a post at his old school. He's a good teacher, he has a nice sarcastic humour and he's hoping to pay off his debts. But Tudor, right, keeps the reader unbalanced as we learn more about Joe, the reasons for his debt, for instance, the lies he is telling and the fact that no-one in the town is pleased to see him back.

And then there is the central story. When Joe was young his beloved little sister Annie vanished for two days.

He says: "... when my sister was eight years old she disappeared. At the time I thought it was the worst thing in the world that could ever happen. And then she came back."

The child who came back, a changeling if ever there was one, was not the child who went away. "She wasn't the same. She wasn't my Annie. I didn't want to admit, even to myself, that sometimes I was scared to death of my own little sister."

Joe seeks out his old schoolmates, some of whom never escaped the community, and we begin to sense that his is a mission of revenge.

Just what happened to the children of that depressed pit town, with its ghosts of dead miners and bitter atmosphere, will have you shuddering. Tudor is a terrific storyteller. No wonder Stephen King thinks she's the real deal. Michele Magwood @michelemagwood