Source: Review copy
Publication: 21st February 2019 from Michael Joseph
Then . . .
One night, Annie went missing. Disappeared from her own bed. There were searches, appeals. Everyone thought the worst. And then, miraculously, after forty-eight hours, she came back. But she couldn’t, or wouldn’t, say what had happened to her.
Something happened to my sister. I can’t explain what. I just know that when she came back, 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.
Now. . .
The email arrived in my inbox two months ago. I almost deleted it straight away, but then I clicked OPEN:
I know what happened to your sister. It’s happening again . .
Wow! I liked and enjoyed The Chalk Man, C.J. Tudor’s debut novel, but The Taking of Annie Thorne is next level good. It is dark, it is clever, it is brilliantly written and it shocks and surprises right up to the very end.
Joseph Thorne had no intention of returning to Arnhill, scene of his teenage years. His old stomping ground, a small Nottinghamshire village had never recovered from the days when it had a thriving pit and employment wasn’t hard to find. Arnhill no longer holds any good memories, if ever it did. After what happened to Annie, and to Chris, a school friend, he left without a backwards thought.
But times are hard and Joe needs to get out of town. It’s not as if he’d have chosen to go back to Arnhill, but as he is preparing his escape, he receives an e-mail that really doesn’t leave him any option but to go to the place he once called home. Arnhill may after all have something to offer – the answers to everything that happened in his past.
Joe’s sister Annie was only 8 years old when she disappeared for 2 days before coming back and when she did return, she was….different. His school friend Chris committed suicide and he lost his dad in an accident.
But the e-mail tells him that things are going wrong again and he knows it is time he confronted his past.
For a central protagonist, Joe Thorne is easy to dislike. He’s a judgemental sod, sneering at the punters in his local bar: “The men sport signet rings and rolled-up shirt sleeves revealing blurry grey tattoos. The women are all brassy streaks and crinkly arms poking out from ill-advised vest tops.”
He has substantial gambling debts and has lied his way into a teaching position at his old school and now he is renting the cottage where only recently a teacher at the school killed her son, Ben and then shot herself.
There are people who are not happy to have Joe back in Arnhill, and there are others looking for him. But for Joe, it is finally time he confronted his past and found out once and for all what happened to his sister, and why she came back.
In a beautifully plotted, wholly immersive story, C.J. Tudor ramps up the chill factor by several notches with a well-drawn narrative arc that takes the reader on a journey into the depths of hell where unmentionable secrets lie and no-one who goes there ever escapes unscathed.
This is scary, super-sharp story-telling with old tropes refashioned in new ways as old-fashioned evil swarms and slides around creating mayhem below ground just as new evils are being perpetrated above ground. When the two come together, and the past meets the present, it is hard to know whether there will be anyone left to tell the tale.
Then just as you think you might be able to breathe a sigh of relief; ‘thwack’ the story hits you right in the gut with a sucker punch you just did not see coming.
Verdict: Clever, spine-chilling, horror that packs a punch, is intelligently told and completely riveting.
C. J. Tudor was born in Salisbury and grew up in Nottingham, and has recently moved to Kent with her partner and young daughter.Her love of writing, especially the dark and macabre, started young. When her peers were reading Judy Blume, she was devouring Stephen King and James Herbert.
Over the years she has had a variety of jobs, including trainee reporter, radio scriptwriter, dog walker, voiceover artist, television presenter , copywriter and now, author.
Her first novel, The Chalk Man, was a Sunday Times besseller in both hardback and paperback and sold in 39 territories.