Bonus Reading: The Burning Girls by C.J. Tudor
List Progress: 36/30
Merry Christmas, have a pulpy thriller!
I read 2021’s The Burning Girls largely while traveling on a holiday trip, and this feels like the ideal circumstances to read this thriller/horror novel. The book moves quickly, has short chapters for easy interruptions, has likable but not overly complex characters, and is overall pretty exciting. For a good two thirds of the book, The Burning Girls held my interest. But unfortunately, all of those fast-moving pieces were a bit too varied and chaotic to all coalesce together and stick the landing, so the final act ends up feeling muddled. It’s not a bad book by any means, but The Burning Girls manages to avoid being a good book right at the end.
British vicar Jack Brooks and her teenage daughter Flo have just moved to a small town on the Church’s orders, trying to lay low after an incident with Jack’s previous urban congregation got her in all the headlines. The village of Chapel Croft is one of those toxic villages full of back-biting and gossip, with an added horrific edge in their historical fascination with the Sussex Martyrs, Protestants who were martyred and burned at the stake in the 1500’s. Tie that in with the disappearance of two troubled girls thirty years ago and the demise of the previous vicar, and there is more than enough tragedy and horror right underneath the surface of the town.
Literally more than enough. A downfall of the conclusion is that the disparate plotlines have very little uniting them, so concluding them one after another feels like going down a checklist. And while Jack and Flo are well-realized characters, everyone else is prepared to be as much of a mustache-twirling villain as necessary to make a dramatic reveal work. The issue with Chapel Croft isn’t that it’s burdened with a weighty violent history, it’s that it is peopled so heavily by absolute monsters.
The Burning Girls moves along at a fast clip and has some good imagery, but that is not quite enough to recommend it. If you have a lot of holiday travel coming up, it will hold your attention on the plane or bus, but it’s not worth going out of your way for.
Would I Recommend It: Eh.