The Burning Girls: A Novel - book cover
  • Publisher : Ballantine Books
  • Published : 04 Jan 2022
  • Pages : 352
  • ISBN-10 : 1984825046
  • ISBN-13 : 9781984825049
  • Language : English

The Burning Girls: A Novel

An unconventional vicar must exorcise the dark past of a remote village haunted by death and disappearances in this explosive and unsettling thriller from the acclaimed author of The Chalk Man.

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY THE NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY AND MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL • "Hypnotic and horrifying . . . Without doubt Tudor's best yet, The Burning Girls left me sleeping with the lights on."-Chris Whitaker, New York Times bestselling author of We Begin at the End

A dark history lingers in Chapel Croft. Five hundred years ago, local 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.

Editorial Reviews

Praise for C. J. Tudor and The Burning Girls

"Fans of Gillian Flynn, Tana French, and Jess Lourey will leap at the chance to read [C. J. Tudor's] new psychological thriller. . . . Gruesome and haunting, The Burning Girls is worth every page turn."-Booklist (starred review)

"The kind of novel that's so creepy, it might just seep into your dreams."-Popsugar

"Tudor's uncanny twisty plot is populated with intriguing, damaged characters and the slow-burning suspense leads to a crackling ending."-Minneapolis Star Tribune

"Rarely have the secrets of an English village been used to greater effect. . . . The tension become[s] nearly unbearable. Tudor expertly doles out the plot twists . . . one so shocking that it turns the entire story inside out. . . . Won't be easily forgotten by any reader."-Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Tudor is terrific. I can't wait to see what she does next."-Harlan Coben

"Want to read something good?. . . If you like my stuff, you'll like [The Chalk Man]."-Stephen King

"Some writers have it, and some don't. Tudor has it big-time."-Lee Child

"Tudor is always several steps ahead. She is a brilliant storyteller."-Alex Michaelides, New York Times bestselling author of The Silent Patient

"Tudor is the queen of the cliffhanger."-John Marrs, international bestselling author of The Passengers

"Tudor has proven that she is a true master at creating perfectly dark, highly propulsive, and tightly coiled mysteries that are utterly impossible to put down."-Aimee Molloy, New York Times bestselling author of The Perfect Mother

"If you like Tana French, you will love, love, love C. J. Tudor."-Alma Katsu, author of The Hunger

"C. J. Tudor is turning out some of the best supernatural fiction around. And in The Burning Girls, her signature blend of self-aware characters and ancient evils is on full display."-CrimeReads, "The Most Anticipated Crime Books of 2021"

"Tudor . . . strikes again with another thriller filled with twists and turns right up to the mind-bending ending."-Library Journal

"The author steadily cranks up the scares and the suspense while smoothly toggling between multiple narratives. . . . Jack is immensely appealing. . . . Readers will savor the final, breathless twists. Top-notch and deliciously creepy storytelling."-Kirkus Reviews

Readers Top Reviews

Kindle reader
Some parts of this book are great, brilliant even, but some parts are slow and boring. The characters are not fleshed out at all, except Rev. Jack and her daughter Flo, and I lost track of who was who. The chapters jump from present to past and there's a man on the hunt to confuse matters further. I think maybe the author just attempted to cram too many twists and turns into the book and it ended up a little confusing. There was the small village folklore and the burning girls and martyrs to wrap your head around. Two missing teenagers. A murdered priest. A priest who committed suicide. A man hunting his sister. A warped couple of teenagers who are pure evil. Ghostly apparitions. A murder cover up. Child cruelty. Paedophilia. Murder. Deception. Religious ramblings. Just too much.
I really enjoyed reading this book by Ms Tudor! I've read all her books so far and "The Chalk Man" and "The taking of Annie Thorne" are among my favourite books. Now to the "The burning girls"! For starters, there are a lot of dark secrets that have been kept for many years by the characters in this new book of hers and they poison the lives of those who keep them, making them lie more and more to preserve their seemingly perfect lives. The characters are flawed but they are also rather well-developed for a book of this genre, and their effort to keep their secrets makes them more believable and easier to identify with. There is mystery, as the main character, a vicar with no shortage of sectets of her own, finds out about two local girls who went missing and were never seen again. There is just enough supernatural element (the apparitions of the burning girls) to spice up the story without overshadowing the other elements in the plot and there are a couple of great twists. The main reason why I knocked one star off is the fact that one of the characters is far less developed than the rest-it almost feels like the character has been put there to play the part of the "Deus ex Machina".
Elizabeth Brazel
I absolutely love C. J. Tudor!! I've read the three previous books, and have loved every single one. The Burning Girls is no different. Such an amazing story with a couple twists that I really didn't see coming. I honestly couldn't this book down, which is usually the way whenever I read anything by C. J. Tudor. But out of all four books that I have rated five star and loved every word of, The Burning Girls really grabbed me from the off! I cannot recommend this book or the author enough.
Single parent Rev. Jack Brooks and her teenage daughter Flo, moved to Chapel Croft ostensibly for a new start, and for Jack a chance to perhaps find some peace. An ‘unfortunate situation’, as described by the residing bishop in her Nottingham parish, resulted in a move neither Jack or Flo wanted to a much smaller parish in rural Sussex. It was an interim position until a full time replacement could be found. However, no-one had seen fit to mention that the last vicar had committed suicide. Jack gets a less than warm welcome from some of the parishioners, including being sent an old and seemingly used exorcism kit from someone unknown, and almost immediately twig dolls and visions of the burning girls begin to manifest. Chapel Croft, idyllic on the outside, but with a bloody and horrifying history, soon begins to show its darker side when Flo sees something unimaginable in the churchyard and secrets begin to surface. The legend of the Sussex martyrs plays a huge part in the history of the village. The legend goes that two of the eight Protestant martyrs took refuge in the chapel but were betrayed, caught, then tortured and killed. The women are said to haunt the chapel and appear to those in trouble. I love that Jack is far removed from the image of a stereotypical vicar. She has a traumatic back story, smokes (although she’s trying to give up), likes a drink and has a tendency to swear. She’s also very good with people, and has a loving relationship with her daughter, who also doesn’t conform to the ’norm’. Told from different perspectives, including that of an unknown man recently released from prison and hot on Jack’s trail, keeps up the suspense and tension levels. A multi layered plot and characters, together with a creepily atmospheric setting, set the scene for Jack and Flo to try and find out what exactly is going on in Chapel Croft. Things are never quite what they seem, and that goes for some of the characters too, as Jack and Flo find out to their cost. There are plenty of surprises and red herrings to muddy the waters, an intriguing and gripping storyline with a touch of the supernatural, plus a great ending. Wonderful storytelling from CJ Tudor and an excellent narration by Gemma Whelan and Richard Armitage.
swThe Cookster
I was really hoping for the spooky mystery this was advertised as. Instead each page felt like ad placement (Diet Coke, WhatsApp, McDonalds, Dominos, Safari, Insta, etc) and eye-rolling 00s hipster references (Nightmare Before Christmas, The Killers, Donnie Darko, My Chemical Romance, Etc) and “woke” generalizations between an extra-judgemental vicar mother who seems to want to be a teenager from the 00s and her teenage daughter written like the stereotype of teen in current times of 2020. Except none of these characteristics play any part in the overall story. They just make for flakey main characters. It’s so pieced together haphazardly and the mystery is contrived and such a disappointment. Too many characters not fleshed out at all, along with too many mysteries but no actual build up to any of them. Honestly, this felt like a D list, D rated, teen horror movie plot.

Short Excerpt Teaser


"It's an unfortunate situation."

Bishop John Durkin smiles, benevolently.

I'm pretty sure that Bishop John Durkin does everything benevolently, even taking a shit.

The youngest bishop to preside over the North Notts diocese, he's a skilled orator, author of several acclaimed theological papers and, if he hadn't at least tried to walk on water, I'd be amazed.

He's also a wanker.

I know it. His colleagues know it. His staff know it. Secretly, I think, even he knows it.

Unfortunately, no one is going to call him on it. Certainly not me. Not today. Not while he holds my job, my home and my future in his smooth, manicured hands.

"Something like this can shake the faith of the community," he continues.

"They're not shaken. They're angry and sad. But I won't let this ruin everything we've achieved. I won't leave people now when they need me the most."

"But do they? Attendance is down. Classes canceled. I heard that the children's groups may move to another church."

"Crime scene tape and police officers will do that. This is not a community that has any love for the police."

"I understand that-"

No, he doesn't. The closest Durkin gets to the inner city is when his driver takes a wrong turn on the way to his private gym.

"I'm confident it's only temporary. I can rebuild their trust."

I don't add that I need to. I made a mistake and I need to make amends.

"So now you can perform miracles?" Before I can answer or argue, Durkin continues smoothly. "Look, Jack, I know you did what you thought was best, but you got too close."

I sit back stiffly in my seat, fighting the urge to fold my arms like a sulky teenager. "I thought that was our job. To build close ties with the community."

"It is our job to uphold the reputation of the Church. These are testing times. Everywhere, churches are failing. Fewer and fewer people are attending. We have an uphill battle even without this negative publicity."

And that is what Durkin really cares about. The newspapers. PR. The Church doesn't get good press at the best of times and I've really screwed things up. By trying to save a little girl and, instead, condemning her.

"So, what? You want me to resign?"

"Not at all. It would be a shame for someone of your caliber to leave." He steeples his hands together. He really does that. "And it would look bad. An admission of guilt. We have to give careful consideration to what we do next."

I'm sure. Especially considering my appointment here was his idea. I'm his prize show-dog. And I had been performing well, turning the once-derelict inner-city church back into a hub of the community.

Until Ruby.

"So, what do you suggest?"

"A transfer. Somewhere less high profile for a while. A small church in Sussex has suddenly found itself without a priest. Chapel Croft. While they nominate a replacement, they need an interim vicar."

I stare at him, feeling the earth shift beneath my feet.

"I'm sorry, but that's not possible. My daughter is taking her GCSEs next year. I can't just move her to the other end of the country."

"I've already agreed to the transfer with Bishop Gordon at the Weldon diocese."

"You've what? How? Has the post been advertised? Surely there must be a more suitable local candidate-"

He waves a hand dismissively. "We were chatting. Your name came up. He mentioned the vacancy. Serendipity."

And Durkin can pull more strings than frigging Geppetto.

"Try and look on the bright side," he says. "It's a beautiful part of the country. Fresh air, fields. A small, safe community. It could be good for you and Flo."

"I think I know what's best for me and my daughter. The answer is no."

"Then let me be blunt, Jack." His eyes meet mine. "This is not a f***ing request."

There's a reason why Durkin is the youngest bishop to preside over the diocese and it has nothing to do with his benevolence.

I clench my fists in my lap. "Understood."

"Excellent. You start next week. Pack your wellies."



"Blaspheming again."

"I know, but-" Flo shakes her head. "What a shithole."

She's not wrong. I pull the car to a halt and stare up at our new home. Well, our spiritual home. Our actual home is next door: a small cottage that would be quite pretty if not for its alarming off-kilter bearing, which makes it look like it's trying to slope away, quietly, brick by brick.

The chapel itself is small, square and a dirty off-white. It doesn't look much like a place of worship. There's no high-pitched roof, cross or stained glass. Four plain windows face the front: two up, two down. Between the two u...