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  • Writer's pictureMandy McHugh

The Burning Girls, CJ Tudor: A Review

I've been a CJ Tudor fan for years, and when I saw this available on NetGalley, I did a little happy dance, because really, in 2020, you have to celebrate every positive, am I right? I was thrilled to be pre-approved for this title and quickly dove in.

Following a tragic incident in her parish, Jack and her daughter Flo move to Chapel Croft where Jack has been reassigned as the interim vicar. Both are wary of the change, but the more they get to know the town--and the citizens who live there--their wariness transitions to doubt and fear. Centuries-old legends, strange happenings in the night, and a string of accidents lead Jack down a road of mysteries with devastating consequences.

I loved this book. Loved. Will be raving about it for months and months to come. Tudor proves yet again that her name is a genre staple, and I'd venture to say this is her best work yet.

Structurally it's told in alternating POVs, which took a few chapters to adjust to the switch from first to third, but ultimately, the switch added to the plot, so I thought it worked well.

Jack's character is utterly enigmatic. I love her voice, her relationship with her daughter, and the way she approaches the impossible. It kind of reminded me of the show Evil but with some underlying Schitt's Creek humor to alleviate the most dreadful of situations. Religion-centric narratives can be hit or miss for me. I was raised Catholic but have a difficult time with overly-religious rhetoric, which is one of the reasons why I appreciated Jack's reflection on religion, faith, spirituality, and belief. Overarching themes like good and evil, faith and doubt, love and hate are explored in honest, authentic conversations, and really, this is where the book shines. This isn't just a book about a woman of faith questioning her role; this is a book that shines a light on the gray areas, one that will push you to examine your own definition of what is morally acceptable while giving you a really entertaining journey on the way.

Indeed, more than the darker moments, The Burning Girls is thoroughly entertaining and creepy. The burning girl imagery and the story behind them is the stuff of nightmares. I had no trouble picturing the setting or the characters through the development of cinematic details, and I think this would translate well to a Netflix series.

Overall, The Burning Girls is a taut, smart, chilling read that'll sink its teeth into the deepest recesses of your mind. If you're looking for a thriller with some ghostly undertones, a good small-town legend, and a cast of unreliable narrators, this will be the book for you. Out in February, add this one to your TBRs ASAP.

Many thanks to Ballantine and NetGalley for providing an eARC in exchange for honest review consideration.


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