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.
C.J Tudor has yet to disappoint me, her books are always a thrill ride and this was no exception! I was completely enthralled with this book and could not put it down, it’s stuffed with twists and plenty of action. I could honestly gush for days about this book and you can bet I’ll be recommending it to all of you from now on! That being said it is also a very, VERY dark book and has a lot of triggers which I have included warnings for at the bottom of this review. I, personally, enjoyed the book with the dark content but it might not be for everyone. The more I thought on this book the more I came to terms with the fact that this is now my favorite C.J. Tudor book and I really couldn’t find anything to really nitpick at because I enjoyed myself a lot.
This book follows Reverend Jack Brooks as she moves to the small village of Chapel Croft with her daughter, Flo, after a gruesome incident at her previous church. The church and surrounding village have their share of secrets: 500 years ago a group of religious martyrs were burned at the stake, 30 years ago a pair of local girls went missing under mysterious circumstances, and just 2 months prior Jack’s predecessor, the local Reverend, committed suicide. Chapel Croft most certainly holds a lot of secrets and it doesn’t help that Jack is also running from her own.
I know, the synopsis and even my little summary there sounds like a lot, and it is! However, with this many moving pieces I was completely stunned by Tudor’s ability to bring them altogether and connect them seamlessly. There are so many plot twists that I did not see coming whatsoever and I was on the edge of my seat the entire time. The chapters are short and pack a punch, each one ending with a sort of mini cliffhanger that left me needing to know what was going to happen next! The writing is amazing, kept me hooked, and is very engaging it also keeps the book going at a very fast pace. I can’t tell you how much a enjoy when a twist happens and it’s such a good twist that I’m momentarily confused and stunned like: “What the hell just happened?!”. This book is full of those moments and I always appreciate being truly surprised when reading any sort of mystery or thriller.
“The Burning Girls” also stays with Tudor’s style of thriller, which weaves supernatural/paranormal elements throughout the story, keeping it just spooky enough that you’re left wondering about it. However, the paranormal element of this story isn’t explained or shown a whole ton. Which I felt really worked in this case because it is an unexplainable phenomena and you know just enough that further explanation wasn’t required. It kept the atmosphere eerie and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
There are a lot of layers to this story, as you probably could have guessed from the many mysteries shown in the synopsis. This was all handled amazingly and I never once felt lost or confused while reading. It all comes together in the end perfectly and I was blown away with the result. The ending was probably my favorite part because it was where all the little twists and moving parts ended up and it kept me guessing all the way up until the very last page. Talk about keeping me hanging until the very end!
The main POV is told in first person with Reverend Jack Brooks, however, we do get third person POV chapters with her daughter Flo and another mysterious narrator as well. I really enjoyed all of the characters and thought they had great personalities, were complex, and developed and strengthened a lot over the course of the story. Jack and her daughter are badasses, that’s for certain, they’re very strong women and I loved them. That’s not to say they’re perfect, however, because they’re realistic. They have secrets and there are some mistakes that are made during the book and before the events of the book. They owned them though. Jack and Flo both make some questionable decisions but as I said this just added to their realistic portrayal in my eyes because it’s something I could have seen myself doing in their position. I do think there was also a touch of moral ambiguity to the characters which also kept things very interesting and as I’ve said a 100 times already, made them ultimately feel very real but also at other times pretty dark.
There are also some very short chapters sprinkled throughout that are told in the POVs of the missing girls, Merry and Jane. These are basically to give us little tidbits of information that will just push you forward in the story because you need to know what happened to them!
There are quite a few side characters that come into play frequently and play a port in the many different layers of the story, such as: Wrigley, a teen boy that Flo meets who is bullied for his dystonia (a muscle disorder that causes muscles to contract uncontrollably), Reverend Rushton another vicar in the local parish and his wife Clara, Aaron who is the church’s warden, Tom the aging reporter, and the Harper family who are high status residents in Chapel Croft. They ALL have parts to play in the story so they’re important in their own ways and I was very impressed with how much each character impacted the story in small ways.
What I Loved:
- So many twists and turns I didn’t see coming!
- Multi-layered plot
- Well developed, complex characters
- Side characters that played small, important roles
- Paranormal aspect
- Fast pacing, very well written
What I Didn’t Love:
- Honestly, the more I thought about it the more I couldn’t find to nitpick at. So, nothing!
Overall I don’t think I can recommend this book enough, in general! If you enjoy thrillers or any sort of mystery with a paranormal aspect then definitely give this one a read. There is a lot of dark content but if you can handle it this book is very much worth the read. It’s unlike anything I’ve read, very unique, and it will definitely take you for a ride!
Trigger Warnings: Attempted Rape, Murder, Violence & Gore, Bullying, Animal Death (It was a bird), Ableism, Use of the R-word, Mention of Suicide, Homophobia, Child Death, Mention of Abuse, Pedophilia, Sexual Abuse, & Torture
**** Huge thank you to the publisher for providing me with a copy via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review ****