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The Chalk Man

**BLOG TOUR** The Burning Girls by C J Tudor

500 years ago: eight martyrs were burnt to death
30 years ago: two teenagers vanished without trace
Two months ago: the vicar committed suicide

Welcome to Chapel Croft.

When Reverend Jack Brooks is sent with teenage daughter, Flo, to work at a church in Chapel Croft, it’s fair to say that they are not exactly enthralled at the idea of moving from the city to a sleepy town. The town has strong superstitions linked to its past and is not overly welcoming to outsiders, preferring to keep its secrets well hidden. Soon, Jack has many concerns about their new home. Why is Flo plagued by visions of burning girls? Who is sending them threatening messages? Why is no one keen to mention that the previous vicar killed himself?

As a fan of C J Tudor’s previous books, The Chalk Man, The Taking of Annie Thorne and The Other People, I was thrilled to be invited to take part in the blog tour for her latest novel, The Burning Girls. I was immediately grabbed by the premise of the book, the historical aspect of Protestant martyrs during the reign of Mary I piquing my interest greatly. Combined with the 30-year-old cold case of two missing girls, I couldn’t wait to read!

I always expect a supernatural element with C J Tudor’s books, but after being completely thrown by the plot of The Other People, I was not sure what to expect. I know that some people are put off reading books if there is a ghostly aspect but, while there are mentions of the burning girls, appearances of two of the Protestant martyrs, this is a minor part of the plot, the focus being on the mysteries surrounding this tight-knit village.

The book has a Wicker Man feel about it as we are introduced to the main characters, Flo and her vicar parent, Jack. Being forced to relocate to a completely different church than they are used to, with villagers intent on keeping their secrets hidden and their traditions alive, it’s not long before you realise that Jack and Flo’s lives are in danger. Just who is leaving the threatening replica burning girls and what are they trying to cover up? I really liked the two main characters, both of them not conforming to the traditional image of what a teenage girl and a vicar should act like.

There are several plots running through the book, each of them becoming intertwined as the story progressed. There is a sense of foreboding throughout which kept me on my toes as I tried to work out what had been happening in this village and who was responsible. C J Tudor has done a great job in tying all of these threads together to give a satisfying

conclusion, although I am pleased with myself for guessing what one of the big plot twists would be! One reveal had me shocked, however, especially as I felt I should have picked up on a movie-related clue that was given!

C J Tudor has definitely got another hit on her hands with The Burning Girls and I can’t wait to see what she gives us next.

With thanks to Michael Joseph and Net Galley for my copy and to Gaby Young for organising the blog tour.

The Other People by C J Tudor

Driving home, Gabe receives a devastating phone call – his wife and daughter have been murdered at their home. How can this be, though, when he has just seen his daughter being driven past him? For a while, it is thought that Gabe was responsible for their deaths, and now, three years later, he is a shadow of the man he once was. Never giving up hope of finding his daughter alive, he travels up and down the motorway, searching for her. Whilst at a motorway service station, he meets Katie, a waitress who knows what he is going through as her father was brutally killed nine years ago. Fran and her daughter, Alice, are also constantly on the move, desperately trying to evade someone who knows the truth about what links each of these events…

After reading (and thoroughly enjoying) C J Tudor’s previous books, The Chalk Man and The Taking of Annie Thorne, I was fully expecting them to be of a similar vein. Whilst there are shadowy undertones to The Other People, it is more of a straightforward thriller than the previous two books, and this made it an unexpected and very welcome read.

I love C J Tudor’s storytelling and it is to her credit that she manages to successfully weave together several stories to create a tight, cohesive plot. At the start, I did wonder how each part of the plot related to the other, but gradually the truth was revealed, creating a timeline of events that explained everything clearly.

I warmed to the character of Gabe straight away and had great sympathy for his plight. I could feel his frustration in knowing that his daughter was still alive yet not being able to convince anyone else that he was telling the truth. His confidant, The Samaritan, was a fascinating character and I was pleased when we finally discovered his story.

The Other People is one of those books that, once I reached a certain point, I found myself saying, ‘I’ll just read one more chapter…’ It has an addictive plot that demands you know what is going to happen next. If you’re a fan of this author, then you are going to love this!

With thanks to Penguin UK – Michael Joseph and NetGalley for my ARC.

My Books of 2018

As another year draws to a close, it’s time to, once again, look back at what I’ve read over the past twelve months and try to narrow it down to my ten favourites. Not an easy job! Again, I’ve looked back through my Goodreads reviews to see which books I gave five stars to and have chosen from there. Here are my final ten, in no particular order:

 

Don’t Make a Sound by David Jackson

Although I’ve said that my list is in no particular order, this is by far my favourite book of the year. I loved the first two books in the Nathan Cody series but Don’t Make a Sound really is something else. Telling the story of the loathsome Malcolm Benson and the young children he has abducted, this book really did make me gasp in shock as I neared the end. There are not many books that throw me completely off the scent, but David Jackson’s twist succeeded to the point where I had to go back and re-read several pages to ensure that I had read it correctly! I predicted in January that this would be one of my favourite books of the year and I was right!

 

 

Dying Truth by Angela Marsons

The eighth in the Kim Stone series and one that had many devoted fans reaching for their tissues! The investigation into the deaths of some of the pupils at a local school saw Angela Marsons taking the story arc somewhere we never expected it to go. This is a series that is showing no signs of slowing down and Dying Truth is definitely up there as one of the best. If you have never read an Angela Marsons book, you don’t know what you’re missing!

 

The Stranger Diaries by Elly Griffiths

I’m a huge fan of her Ruth Galloway and Stephens & Mephisto books, so I couldn’t wait to read Elly’s standalone, The Stranger Diaries. Part murder-mystery, part gothic thriller, when the body of her friend is found with horrific injuries, English teacher Clare is immediately a suspect. Clare, an expert in the author R M Holland, is perturbed when a quote from one of his stories is found nearby. This is soon followed by strange comments in her personal diary. Is someone messing with her mind or is there really a supernatural link to the case? A superb read.

 

Her Last Move by John Marrs

A gruesome murder-mystery that is more of a ‘whydunit’ than a ‘whodunit’. The two main protagonists, Joe and Becca, are investigating a serial killer who is stalking the streets of London, remaining one step ahead of the police at all times. This book has stuck in my mind mainly due to the twist that I most definitely did not see coming and is one that you don’t see very often in books of this genre.

 

Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier

A twisty thriller that had me hooked from the very first page, Jar of Hearts tells the story of Geo, a woman who is about to be released from prison after serving time for her involvement in the murder of her high school friend. Her then boyfriend, Calvin, has escaped from prison and soon there is a trail of bodies all bearing the hallmarks of the Sweetbay Strangler. Is this a message for Geo and is she destined to be the next victim?

 

The Chalk Man by C. J. Tudor

This is a bit of a cheat really as I also included it in my books of 2017 but as it wasn’t officially published until 2018, I think I’m allowed to include it again! When a group of boys follow a trail of drawings depicting chalk men, they find a dismembered body in the woods, changing their lives forever. Now, thirty years later, the chalk men have started to reappear… Clever writing and an equally clever ending, I can’t wait to read the author’s next book, The Taking of Annie Thorne.

 

Killing Time by Mark Roberts

The fourth in the Eve Clay series is another dark thriller from Mark Roberts set, as in the previous books, in Liverpool, but also, this time, taking in the United States. When a young Czech girl is found abandoned in a park, there is some relief until the call comes in that two Polish men have been found dead in their burnt-out flat. Are the cases connected? There is, again, another chilling climax to the story with plenty of twists and turns along the way.

 

The Bone Keeper by Luca Veste

When a woman is found near a forest singing a childhood song about ‘the bone keeper’, people begin to ask the question – could the urban legend actually be real? A very eerie serial killer story with more than a touch of the macabre, Luca Veste has created another great protagonist in Louise Henderson (although I am still missing Murphy and Rossi!).

 

Move to Murder by Antony M Brown

The murder of Julia Wallace in 1931 is one of Britain’s classic unsolved cases. Move to Murder examines the evidence, putting forward several theories, asking the reader to take on the role of the jury and come up with a verdict. A well-written and researched book, this certainly made me question my long-held view on the case.

 

Thirteen by Steve Cavanagh

I’ve never been a fan of courtroom dramas, but the tagline, ‘The serial killer isn’t on trial. He’s on the jury’ was too intriguing to miss. With one of the worst (and ingenious) serial killers I’ve read about for a long time, this was definitely one of the books that lived up to the hype.

 

So, there you have it. There’s a few that just missed out, but I’m happy with my final ten. Have any of these made your list? Is there anything you think I should have included?

 

 

 

My Books of 2017

2017 has been another great year for books, both from returning authors and debut writers. In an attempt to try to choose my favourite ten, I looked back at my Goodreads ratings to look for all of my 5-star reviews. There were more than ten, so I’ve had to try to narrow it down even further! What follows are the books where the plot has stayed with me for one reason or another. In no particular order:

The Chalk Pit by Elly Griffiths

The Ruth Galloway series goes from strength to strength. This very topical book, dealing with the plight of the homeless, is extremely well-written and I can’t wait for the next book, The Dark Angel.

 

Hope to Die by David Jackson

A murder in the grounds of Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral sees the start of a brutal killing spree by a killer filled with hate. The second in the Nathan Cody series saw us finding out a bit more about the detective’s past and the ending set up the next book nicely.

 

Love Like Blood by Mark Billingham

I’ve loved all of the Thorne books but this is definitely one where the plot will remain with me for a long time. A very emotive book dealing with the taboo subject of honour killings, as usual Mark Billingham’s writing is perfect.

 

 

My Sister’s Bones by Nuala Ellwood

A very clever book where you don’t know what to believe. Is there something sinister going on or is it all the imaginings of a highly-medicated war reporter? This was a slow burner that became high-octane towards the end of the book with plenty of shocks along the way.

 

The Perfect Victim by Corrie Jackson

I absolutely loved this book despite it being the second in a series where I had not read the first. An incredibly twisty plot that completely messed with my head yet was never once confusing. I’d love to see this one made into a film.

 

 

Dying Games by Steve Robinson

The books about genealogist Jefferson Tayte just keep getting better and better and this one, I feel, was one of the best. A lot more fast-paced than some of the others, we find Jefferson  racing against the clock to stop a serial killer in his tracks. Very reminiscent of Robert Langdon!

 

The Stolen Girls by Patricia Gibney

The second in the Lottie Parker series is a harrowing, emotional read which firmly placed the detective amongst my favourite characters. Death, prostitution, people trafficking and organ harvesting – this book has it all!

 

 

Day of the Dead by Mark Roberts

Another series set in Liverpool, but this time with a brilliant female protagonist, DCI Eve Clay. Some years ago, a paedophile-killer escaped from prison and now it seems as though he is back as the killings have started again. This series has a touch of the macabre about them and are a thrilling read!

 

The Good Mother by Karen Osman

A very character-driven novel about how destructive a secret can be. Told from the perspectives of three women, there was a definite ‘eureka’ moment which totally blew me away. Thrilling and emotive in equal measures.

 

 

The Chalk Man by C. J. Tudor

I toyed about putting this one in as it’s not actually published until January 2018 but it was so good that I had to! Set in the present day and in 1986, it is obvious that crimes have been committed in the past and a group of young friends are implicated in some way. This promises to be one of the books of 2018.

 

So there you have it! How many of these appear on your top ten?

The Chalk Man by C. J. Tudor

91TOUwUDzNLIt’s 1986 and Eddie and his group of friends (Hoppo, Fat Gav, Metal Mickey and Nicky) are doing the sort of things that all 12-year-olds do: riding their bikes, hanging around in playgrounds, writing secret messages using chalks… Things change forever when, after following a trail of drawings depicting chalk men, they find a dismembered body in the woods.

Fast forward thirty years and the murder is still fresh in the minds of all those involved. Still living at the house he shared with his parents, Eddie is drawn back in when a face from the past reappears and he starts noticing the chalk men once again. Not quite sure whether to believe what he is seeing, another death spurs him into trying to discover exactly what happened all those years ago.

There has been so much online buzz about this book and it even got a mention in a recent talk by the Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers so I thought it was about time I saw for myself what all the fuss was about. Am I so glad I did! The book grabbed me from the very first page and I found it very difficult to put down. I particularly liked the chapters set in 1986 as it evoked numerous childhood memories. I am thankful that my childhood was much less eventful than the children in this story however!

The Chalk Man is told from the perspective of Eddie and we get to see how events in 1986 have shaped both his future and that of all those involved. That year is certainly a memorable one for the children as, in addition to them finding the body, there is a fairground accident, a pro-life campaign and a serious assault to deal with. Perhaps, though, one of the most shocking parts of the book for me was the incident between Eddie and Sean, Metal Mickey’s brother. It is hard to say too much without revealing any spoilers but my heart really went out to Eddie for what he went through both during the event and also afterwards.

One of the things I enjoyed most about the book is how so many seemingly separate events all link together. This made for a very tight, well-written plot with no loose ends. I did fear that one thing had been overlooked but the closing scenes certainly put paid to that idea! Last year, social media was awash with the hashtag #WTFThatEnding with regards to the book Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough. The same hashtag could certainly apply here as I actually gasped when I realised how it was going to end! Even though it was a shock, however, it was completely true to what we’d come to know about Eddie and made perfect sense.

Even at this early stage, The Chalk Man promises to be one of the big hits of 2018 and I would not be surprised if a television or film company picks it up. As I was reading, I was reminded on several occasions of The Five, a Sky TV Drama created by Harlan Coben, and thought it amusing that he was actually name checked in the book!

It is hard to believe that this is the author’s debut novel and I can’t wait to see what she writes next.

With thanks to Penguin UK – Michael Joseph and Net Galley for my ARC.

 

 

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