The Hiding Place, by C.J. Tudor

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, C.J. Tudor, and Crown Publishing for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

After the great success of her debut novel, C.J. Tudor returns with another psychological thriller that straddles two time periods to bring readers an enthralling novel. Joe Thorne left the village of Arnhill after a problematic childhood that included some tragic personal events. Now, armed with a teaching degree and having fled his last posting under a cloud of suspicion, Thorne is back to teach at the local academy. While many years have passed, Arnhill seems to still be the same speck on the map, with the problems flowing through to the next generation. As Thorne tries to acclimate himself to old grievances, he is reminded about his sister and her desire to chum along with him when she was a precocious eight. As he has memories of the events that led to her disappearance, Joe sees things differently and remembers the great changes in Annie when she turned up two days later. This led to an Annie he did not recognize, which snowballed into a fatal car accident that left Thorne orphaned. Struggling with those memories and how to handle his new crop of students, Joe Thorne’s recent past catches up to him and creates a gaping void. However, someone holds the truth to his past and a deep secret that he has spent decades trying to hide. With nothing to lose, Joe Thorne forges to rectify some of the pains of his youth and avenge Annie’s disappearance at the hands of another, while burying everything else a little deeper. Tudor presents another masterful psychological thriller that keeps the reader guessing as the story unravels at break-neck speed. Recommended for those who enjoyed her debut, as well as readers who like a little chill in their novels.

I admit that I was not as enveloped in Tudor’s opening novel as some, but I did find there to be some redeeming qualities, which is why I was happy to return for another go. Tudor makes no excuses for her writing style, which mixes a well-balanced narrative and flashback chapters to fill in the backstory gaps. Joe Thorne has an interesting role in this novel, living in both the past and present, while offering the reader a smorgasbord of development and backstory on which to feast. While he is a loner of sorts, the reader can see a Joe who has a purpose, even if it is fogged in an odd connection to his sister who died in a horrible crash many years ago. Many of the other characters prove useful vessels, both to propel the flashback sequences forward and to offer sober revisiting in their older incarnations. Tudor does well to keep the reader involved while also keeping large gaps out of the narrative. The guesswork left to the reader is interesting, though there are some nagging aspects that plague the narrative until the final chapters, rectifying an entire story’s worth of confusing in a single reveal. Tudor paces her story well and keeps the reader on edge, only pushing the final piece into place in time for the reader to catch their breath and end the intense novel.

Kudos, Madam Tudor, for another winner. I quite enjoyed this piece and hope others will find as many chills as I did throughout.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: