Even though it’s not fully dark outside and all the lights are on, the cottage always feels full of shadows.
I read C.J. Tudor’s The Burning Girls right after Adam L.G. Nevill’s Cunning Folk. Both have made me as obsessed with folk horror as their protagonists are with their town’s lore.
And readers can’t help but sense an ominous feeling of following hypnotic sinister shadows to their own entombment as they tear through this bloody mystery.
Following an entanglement of tragedy for protagonist Jack Brookes, Tudor takes readers to Chapel Croft, an insular village with a gruesome, twisted history built on the burning of religious martyrs, missing girls, and a series of questionable/unsolved deaths.
Here, Jack becomes Chapel Croft’s new vicar after her predecessor’s untimely and bizarre death. Jack envisions a fresh start for her and her teenage daughter Florence — Flo, for short — but quickly finds her heavy conscience and nagging trauma only adds fuel to the town’s ever-burning flames of chaos and suspicions.
What starts as misfortune and a labyrinth of smoke and mirrors becomes life and death for Jack and Flo. Haunted by headless, armless, burnt figures — the burning girls, which, according to the town lore, means something bad will befall them — Jack and Flo unveil a trail of conspiracies and buried secrets.
Tudor weaves a classic haunting tale for a new generation with imagery that felt like a revival of The Wicker Man and the brilliant pairing of horror and heart leveling up to Stephen King in Pet Sematary.
As Tudor always does, The Burning Girls exceeded my expectations. It’s like following a path of steps into an inkblot of darkness. The wind blows, and the warning sign of smoke is in the air. Yet, you have to see the spectral for yourself because you know, deep in your bones, it’s not a trick of the light.
Tudor’s The Burning Girls is my favorite novel from the author yet. Its unfurling chills and brilliant depiction of the ghost of grief and guilt seared together with burning questions of disappearances and murder made this one of my favorite reads of the year.
Tudor has made a life-long fan out of me. Fans of Mike Flanagan’s Midnight Mass and Cunning Folk by Adam L.G. Nevill, this one’s for you.