Blog tour: 15 January to 12 February 2021
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.
For Rev Jack Brooks and teenage daughter Flo it’s supposed to be a fresh start. New job, new home. But, as Jack knows, the past isn’t easily forgotten.
And in a close-knit community where the residents seem as proud as they are haunted by Chapel Croft’s history, Jack must tread carefully. Ancient superstitions as well as a mistrust of outsiders will be hard to overcome.
Yet right away Jack has more frightening concerns.
Why is Flo plagued by visions of burning girls?
Who’s sending them sinister, threatening messages?
And why did no one mention that the last vicar killed himself?
Chapel Croft’s secrets lie deep and dark as the tomb. Jack wouldn’t touch them if not for Flo – anything to protect Flo.
But the past is catching up with Chapel Croft – and with Jack. For old ghosts with scores to settle will never rest …
The Burning Girls is set in the small Sussex village of Chapel Croft, which has an intriguing and disturbing history. On 17 September 1556, eight villagers, including two young girls, were burnt to death at the stake during Queen Mary’s purge of the Protestants (the Marian Persecutions). Every year, on the anniversary of this terrible event, little twig dolls (burning girls) are set on fire to signify the martyrs who were killed.
Also, in mid-May 1990, two local teenagers, Joy Harris and Merry Lane, both aged 15, went missing, a week apart, and were never found. It was assumed that they’d run away together and the police never really investigated their disappearance properly.
After problems at their parish in Nottingham, Reverend Jack Brooks and 15-year-old daughter, Florence (Flo), are transferred to Chapel Croft. The village needs an interim vicar after the sudden death of the previous priest, Reverend Matthew Fletcher.
A week later, the pair arrive at the rather creepy chapel and the nearby tiny vicar’s cottage where they’re going to be living. It’s August and the ramshackle cottage is cramped and stuffy. They’ve only just arrived but, straightaway, they’re greeted by a rather frightening sight when they find a little girl who seems injured.
Someone leaves a welcome gift for Jack at the chapel and, when opened, it turns out to be an exorcism kit! Then threatening messages and symbols are left on the doorstep and Jack and Flo both start to see strange visions in the chapel and wonder what on earth they’re letting themselves in for.
This is an atmospheric and tense creepy read and there are lots of chilling secrets to be revealed in this close-knit village with its macabre traditions and superstitions. All the characters seem to be hiding things, even Reverend Jack. The secrets are bubbling beneath the surface and everyone seemed suspicious and untrustworthy at one point or another.
There are some strong characters, especially Jack and Flo, as well as the rather wily 85-year-old Joan Hartman. There’s some violent and intense imagery throughout the novel and the descriptions of what happens within the chapel and derelict house are particularly vivid and disturbing.
There are some supernatural elements to the story, which I’m not usually a fan of, but they really added to the creepiness and suspense in the novel.
Overall, The Burning Girls was a gripping, fast-paced read, with lots of twists and turns, and it had me on the edge of my seat, frantically turning the pages, desperate to see what was going to happen. The book is entertaining and enthralling with lots of action! It’s well written and very cleverly plotted – I had a few suspicions but was very surprised by how everything was resolved. There are several threads to the story but they’re woven together well, though I did have to have a think about everything at the end and put it all together. I almost want to reread straightaway to see all the hints and clues that I missed!
Buy the book
About the author
C.J. Tudor‘s 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.
Her first novel, The Chalk Man, was a Sunday Times bestseller and has sold in over 40 countries. Her second novel, The Taking of Annie Thorne, was also a Sunday Times bestseller, as was her third novel, The Other People.
Over the years, she has worked as a copywriter, television presenter, voiceover and dog walker. She is now thrilled to be able to write full time, and doesn’t miss chasing wet dogs through muddy fields all that much. She lives in Sussex with her family.
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