I brought this book at the same time as The Chalk Man, which I read around 2 months ago now. Eventually, I have made my way back round to its buddy The Taking of Annie Thorne, the book that actually made me buy them both in the first place, but somehow was read second…
Naturally, I’m aware of the classic “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover”, but it certainly does help if the cover stands out and is compelling enough for me to pick it up from the shelf and read the blurb. With an unusual array of red paper-dolls staining the edges of the pages, and a dark, ominous looking cover, The Taking of Annie Thorne’s design is what made me take them both home. Covers are important, but I’d agree they have no bearing on the actual story itself. Luckily in this case, I’m glad I judged the book by it’s cover: I loved The Chalk Man and similarly I also loved The Taking of Annie Thorne! C. J. Tudor is quickly becoming one of my favourite writers; so far these dark and twisting stories have been incredibly thrilling and addictive.
When Joe was a kid, his younger sister, Annie, went missing. Horrified, the whole community searched for the little 8-year old, a grim feeling growing as 48 hours mercilessly ticked by. But – when all hope seemed to be vanishing just like their little girl – there was a knock on the door.
She came home.
Overwhelmed with relief and joy, Joe’s family wept and hugged and envisioned their normal life returned – unscathed – to the way it had been before. Only Joe seemed to see that something was off. Something was missing. That wasn’t his little sister anymore.
The narrative begins with Joe as an adult, returning reluctantly to Arnhill, a small town in the countryside of North Nottinghamshire. The small town where Joe grew up. Where everything happened. Having moved away at the first opportunity, he believed nothing could claw him back to that place, but then he received an email, simply reading “I know what happened to your sister. It’s happening again…”. Taking up a teaching position at the local school with falsified references, Joe is there to get to the truth, and prevent history from repeating itself. He cannot let what happened to his Annie happen again. But as he gets there he soon discovers – it already has.
In my review for The Chalk Man, I noted the similarities between that novel and Stephen King’s books. It’s impossible to not make the same connections with this one too. It is again centred around a group of kids that were friends in a small town, something happening – something terrible – and at least one of them returns again as an adult when there is a notion of it happening again… Sounds a lot like IT, doesn’t it? Without giving anything away about that plot, there were also elements of the story that reminded me of Stephen King’s Pet Sematary. In saying that, as long as Tudor keeps writing these books, I’ll keep reading them. The way she writes is gripping, and in both instances of reading her books I have found myself glued to the pages.
Getting through it in just a day, The Taking of Annie Thorne was definitely a page-turner. Sometimes with novels which are set in both the past and the present, where various looming secrets and key details are withheld from one side of the timeline, I can get a little frustrated, but the pace at which the truth is unravelled in The Taking of Annie Thorne was just right – enough to keep me completely absorbed throughout, whilst also holding back those crucial mysteries to keep me reading, saving them for major plot twists and shocking surprises.
The main character – whom the reader follows from childhood days right through to a rather pitiful adulthood (much like Eddie in The Chalk Man) – is Joe, haunted by the events of the past that he has so desperately tried to escape. What I like about Joe’s character is that there are pressing issues in his present as well. While the reader scrambles to find the truth about the mystery behind Annie and the strange happenings in Arnhill, there is a creeping anxiety that follows – Joe is in a lot of debt, owing money to dangerous people. Dangerous people who have followed him to Arnhill. On top of that, he is also at risk of being discovered for his fraudulent references, and has a concerning drinking problem that seeps its way through the pages.
A striking likability factor about him, I whole-heartedly rooted for Joe throughout the plot, despite questioning many of his ruthless decisions, and sarcastic, dry wit that has the potential to land him in a lot of trouble. Finding his humour similar to mine, Joe was definitely my favourite – and to be honest there weren’t many other characters to root for anyway – they all seemed just a little bit shifty. Untrustworthy in the context of Arnhill’s secrets and lies.
Would I recommend?
Definitely. And particularly if you like thrilling, mystery novels, or the darker, creepy genre of entertainment. C. J. Tudor is an incredible author: the plot of course was clever and winding, captivating me at all times, but the writing itself is beautifully eloquent, with dark and menacing undertones, and the occasional note on life that reads like it could be a famous quote from some historically renowned philosopher. I’ve already got my next C. J. Tudor book lined up to read!