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…