The Taking Of Annie Thorne aka The Hiding Place (2019) by C J Tudor

Once upon a time, a young girl, Annie Thorne, disappeared from her bedroom. She returned to her family two days later a changed girl – but days later, she was dead.

Years later, Joe Thorne, Annie’s brother returns to his home town of Arnhill, the first time since the tragedy of his youth. But it is not for emotional reasons. An anonymous email has prompted him to return to deal with unfinished business – “I know what happened to your sister. It’s happening again…” Another child is dead – and more may well follow…

The Chalk Man was a much lauded thriller from last year. I didn’t read it – call me daft, but when I see one particular author’s recommendation on the blurb, it tends to have the opposite effect than was intended. Actually, there’s a couple such authors who, if they read everything that they review, I’ve no idea how they get they get any of their own writing done.

Anyway, this second book, a standalone, was touted to me via Netgalley and I thought I’d give this one a shot before looking at the blurbs (and yes, that author appears again). It’s not out for a couple of weeks, but I thought I’d take an early run at it.

And we have a winner for hardest-book-to-review-without-spoiling. Well, spoiling a crucial aspect of it. It’s an aspect that is crucial to the story, an aspect that possibly readers of The Chalk Man might expect, but an aspect that is only vaguely hinted at in the blurb. And it’s an aspect that will annoy the pants of many fans of crime fiction. But as it only becomes clear towards the end… no, I can’t really talk about it.

So, let’s put it to one side, and talk about the book in general. Because this is a very tightly plotted, superbly written thriller. The first person narrative from Joe Thorne, oscillating from the past to the present, is absolutely spell-binding, as his plans, both for revenge and salvation, begin to build and to fall apart, and secrets begin to slowly be revealed.

There are some genuinely surprising twists in the plot as it goes along, and in some ways, the bit I can’t talk about is actually fairly irrelevant. Because when it becomes clear what it happening, I thought it was going to annoy me, that it would signal a change of direction in the narrative, but that was not the case. The tense, thriller/mystery structure is never abandoned with surprises all the way to the end.

So, if you want a twisty thriller and don’t mind it veering slightly into unexpected territory, then this is definitely Highly Recommended.

Availability: The Taking Of Annie Thorne is released as ebook and hardback on 21st February and paperback at some point thereafter. In the US, it has the much duller title The Hiding Place for some reason…

15 comments

  1. Her first book was such a Stephen King rip-off (it went way beyond homage IMO) utterly predictable if you knew the two source stories she used as the basis of “her” plot. It ended with a huge let down with obvious “twists” and nothing at all startling. I was hugely disappointed with it as a whole. She does emulation really well, but where is her own voice and ideas? I can’t imagine I’d be impressed by this next effort since it seems to be using the same type of narrative structure as her debut novel and sounds very much like a very popular horror movie. I’m sure I’d find lots of influences and near plagiarism as I did with THE CHALK MAN.

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      • You’re right, it didn’t. But King has written crime stories and crime novels as well as supernatural horror novels. His well known short story “The Body” is the basis for the plot of THE CHALK MAN. She also stole the alternating narrative structure and character relationships of “It for use in her first book. I noticed other King influences too — everything from Carrie to Apt Pupil. It’s really a sad example of imitating your hero at the expense of real creativity. It’s more like fan fiction than an original novel.

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      • A crime thriller with a supernatural strand running through it – does that make her a copycat?

        Is Ngaio Marsh a copycat of Agatha Christie for writing similar stories?

        Admittedly, not having read The Chalk Man or indeed any Stephen King, I can’t say how strong any similarities are, but it strikes me that the idea herein is a pretty standard supernatural trope that I doubt was introduced by King.

        And how strong and twisty is the thriller aspect of King’s writing? Because this book would be just as effective without the supernatural strand whereas, and I may be wrong, that tends to be the central hook of King’s work.

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  2. Also. with the Stephen King parallels, it might be worth noting that a) C J Tudor admits King as an influence – https://www.deadgoodbooks.co.uk/c-j-tudor-on-stephen-king/ – and b) King himself praised The Chalk Man – “Want to read something good? You won’t find it on the front bestseller table at your bookstore, but it’s new, and will be there. THE CHALK MAN, by C.J. Tudor. If you like my stuff, you’ll like this.” on Twitter, Feb 2018. So I don’t think he’s too bothered with the similarities.

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  3. Well, J F Norris tells clearly that her first book was a Stephen King rip-off.
    And, a person who has read the second book told me that it is a rip-off of Pet Sematary by Stephen King.

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    • No desire to deliberately read a horror novel. But looking at the Wikipedia page shows that there are similarities in the sense of a possibly dead body being possibly possessed. And that would appear to be where the similarities end.

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