book review: The Hiding Place (also known as: The Taking of Annie Thorne) by C.J. Tudor

Because for Joe, the worst moment of his life wasn’t the day his sister went missing. It was the day she came back. 


That is one hell of a lede. Okay, so it’s not the first sentence of the blurb, but damn. The second I read it, I was hooked. Not that I wasn’t determined to read this book to begin with, having enjoyed C.J Tudor’s first novel, The Chalk Man so much. Largely, I’ve seen positive reviews of this one, with a few detractors. I’ve even seen comments about of racism and homophobia, and maybe my memory is shot, but I can’t recall any that spring to mind …? If I’m wrong, please correct me by all means!

However, I’m not sure when it became important for books to be perfect in that regard. My own personal opinion is that it’s more entertaining to read about flawed human beings that angels. Further, I didn’t get the sense that Tudor set Joe up specifically to be a “hero”. If anything, he’s a cautionary tale.

Set in Arnhill, a soiled spot on the British landscape, The Hiding Place captures one of my favourite journeys – the adult returning to their childhood home to face a half-remembered horror. Stephen King is particularly good at this, and so is C.J. Tudor. Every step that Joe Thorne takes is leaden, every page he turns in the ghostly book of his past is crumbling, and every detail he reveals to us seems to come directly from the belly of the beast.

The novel begins with an act of madness. A local teacher murders her son and then shoots herself, leaving only questions behind. In Arnhill, an old mining town that seems best left to rot, the questions go unanswered. Enter (walking disaster) Joe Thorne, stage left. Ostensibly, Joe returns to Arnhill to work as a teacher at his old school and pay off debts (or hide from his lenders), but in reality, he’s back because something is happening.

And what is happening,

happened before.

What exactly occurred in the past, I’ll leave you to discover. Suffice to say, it involves the disappearance of Joe’s sister, Annie, a childhood gang of “friends” that lead Joe straight into the bowels of the earth, and a particular horror that once it gets its claws into you, doesn’t let go, not for anyone, not for death or dreams or innocence or tears.

Genuinely creepy and viscerally atmospheric, this novel interrupted my sleep. What more can you ask for? Click here to buy The Hiding Place, and support imagination, literary and our treasured authors!

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