Book Review: The Burning Girls by CJ Tudor

The Burning Girls  by CJ Tudor Genre:  Mystery, thriller Synopsis:   A dark history lingers in Chapel Croft. Five hundred years ago, P...

The Burning Girls by CJ Tudor

Genre: Mystery, thriller

A dark history lingers in Chapel Croft. Five hundred years ago, Protestant martyrs were betrayed—then burned. Thirty years ago, two teenage girls disappeared without a trace. And a few weeks ago, the vicar of the local parish hanged himself in the nave of the church.

Reverend Jack Brooks, a single parent with a fourteen-year-old daughter and a heavy conscience, arrives in the village hoping for a fresh start. Instead, Jack finds a town rife with conspiracies and secrets, and is greeted with a strange welcome package: an exorcism kit and a note that warns, “But there is nothing covered up that will not be revealed and hidden that will not be known.” The more Jack and daughter, Flo, explore the town and get to know its strange denizens, the deeper they are drawn into the age-old rifts, mysteries, and suspicions. And when Flo begins to see specters of girls ablaze, it becomes apparent there are ghosts here that refuse to be laid to rest.

Uncovering the truth can be deadly in a village with a bloody past, where everyone has something to hide and no one trusts an outsider.

Content/Trigger Warnings: Death and violence, stalking, loss of loved one(s)

Overall rating:  ★★★☆☆

I found The Burning Girls to be an immensely interesting read. As I read, I was so immersed and wholly terrified. I’m a big fan of multiple perspectives and I thought the switches between mother (Jack) and daughter (Flo) were executed so well. I appreciated that while Jack is a vicar, she was still her own person. In any type of pop culture, religious figures tend to be holier than thou or completely problematic/criminal/dirty. Jack was just a woman working as a vicar, appreciating the work as a way to help folks, but also just trying to take care of her kid. It was refreshing and such a different take than usual.

There’s also a third character, a male, who often shares an ominous perspective within the book. His presence is suspicious and can seem disconnected from the rest of the book, but I found his role to be fairly obvious and predictable.

"If one person gets a little comfort from my words, it's a win."

I did find that one of the only Black characters in the story ended up being brutally murdered, and my excitement for Jack’s role as a non-problematic religious figure was doused in water when there’s another religious figure that’s a stereotypical pedophile. Great.

This is my second read from CJ Tudor and while the writing itself tends to be interesting and strong, Tudor’s stories include problematic themes and tropes that tend to outweigh the things I do enjoy about the books.

The end of the book also bothered me, very much in the way a certain Alex Michaeledes book did. When a book ends in the way The Burning Girls did, it’s disappointing and a letdown.

There were plenty of things to enjoy about this book, but also several things that were ruinous. CJ Tudor can write a book, but I just am not sure that I can continue with the problematic concerns I’ve seen in her books that I’ve read.

*I received a copy of this book free in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are entirely my own.

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