"The thrilling second novel from the author of The Chalk Man, about a teacher with a hidden agenda who returns to settle scores at a school he once attended, only to uncover a darker secret than he could have imagined. Joe never wanted to come back to Arnhill. After the way things ended with his old gang-the betrayal, the suicide, the murder-and after what happened when his sister went missing, the last thing he wanted to do was return to his hometown. But Joe doesn't have a choice. Because judging bywhat was done to that poor Morton kid, what happened all those years ago to Joe's sister is happening again. And only Joe knows who is really at fault. Lying his way into a teaching job at his former high school is the easy part. Facing off with former friends who are none too happy to have him back in town-while avoiding the enemies he's made in the years since-is tougher. But the hardest part of all will be returning to that abandoned mine where it all went wrong and his life changed forever, and finally confronting the shocking, horrifying truth about Arnhill, his sister, and himself. Because for Joe, the worst moment of his life wasn't the day his sister went missing. It was the day she came back. With the same virtuosic command of character andpacing she displayed in The Chalk Man, CJ Tudor has once again crafted an extraordinary novel that brilliantly blends harrowing psychological suspense, a devilishly puzzling mystery, and enough shocks and thrills to satisfy even the most seasoned reader"-
C. J. TUDOR is the author of The Chalk Man, and lives in Nottingham, England, with her partner and three-year-old daughter. Over the years she has worked as a copywriter, television presenter, voice-over, and dog walker. She is now thrilled to be able to write full-time, and doesn't miss chasing wet dogs through muddy fields all that much.
Joe Thorne hasn't returned to Arnhill, the gritty mining town where he grew up, since his father and sister died, but when he learns of the apparent murder-suicide of an Arnhill teacher and her son, Joe is gripped by the similarities to his family's story. Like Joe's sister, Annie, the supposedly murdered boy disappeared for 24 hours, returning drastically changed and unable to say where he'd been. Whatever forces took Annie appear to be back, and Joe resolves to confront them. He easily secures a teaching position at Arnhill's high school and agrees to rent the deceased teacher's home, made affordable by its barely dry crime scene. Once in Arnhill, however, things get complicated: his bullying childhood friend, Steve, is gunning for him; his bookie's sadistic enforcer is a constant threat; and he's finally forced to face his own role in Annie's disappearance. Joe's wisecracking is well-timed comic relief from Arnhill's pervasive darkness; Tudor has crafted another fantastic horror-tinged thriller (after The Chalk Man, 2018) in the vein of John Connolly and Brendan Duffy. Copyright 2018 Booklist Reviews.
When Joe Thorne takes a teaching job in the small English village of his youth, he soon realizes the darkness he's tried to forget certainly hasn't forgotten him. Returning to the tiny mining village of Arnhill wasn't English teacher Joe Thorne's first choice, and teaching at Arnhill Academy, which he attended as a boy, is the furthest thing from a dream job. But his choices are limited. A gambling problem has put him in debt to a man who will break his kneecaps, or worse, if he doesn't get his money. Well, actually, he has a frightening woman named Gloria on hand to do that for him, and she's got her eye on Joe. But Joe has a plan. He moves into a cottage where an Arnhill teacher recently killed her young son and then herself, writing "NOT MY SON" in blood on the wall. But beggars can't be choosers, and Joe tries to settle in at Arnhill, where it's soon obvious that his old foes never left, and they don't want him in their village. Stephen Hurst, a bully Joe ran with as a ki d, has a hold on the town, and his son Jeremy, an Arnhill student, is a chip off the old block. Unfortunately, Stephen shares a secret with Joe that involves Joe's beloved sister, Annie, who disappeared when she was 8 and was very different when she returned. The events leading up to her death soon after were very strange indeed, and everything leads back to a mine shaft that is the source of ghost stories and rumors that have persisted for hundreds of years. The past and present are about to collide in chilling fashion. With Joe, Tudor avoids going the way of the unreliable narrator: He doesn't lie to readers, even if he lies to others, and he has a snarky sense of humor that adds levity. Tudor maintains a tone of creeping dread throughout the book, of something lingering always in the background, coyly hiding its face while whispering promises of very bad things to come. In the last quarter, however, she goes for broke with outright horror, giving readers an effective jolt of adrenaline that will carry them all the way to the terrifying conclusion. Readers won't know what hit them. Tudor came out swinging with Chalk Man (2018), but this one puts her firmly on the map. Not to be missed. Copyright Kirkus 2018 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.
Even before stepping into the cottage, Gary knows that this is bad.
It’s the sickly-sweet smell drifting out through the open door; the flies buzzing around the sticky, hot hallway and, if that isn’t a dead giveaway that something about this house is not right, not right in the worst possible way, then the silence confirms it.
A smart white Fiat sits in the driveway; a bike is propped outside the front door, rain boots discarded just inside. A family home. And even when a family home is empty it has an echo of life. It shouldn’t sit, heavy and foreboding with a thick, suffocating blanket of silence like this house does.
Still, he calls again. “Hello. Anyone here?”
Cheryl raises a hand and raps briskly against the open door. Shut when they arrived, but unlocked. Again, not right. Arnhill might be a small village but people still lock their doors.
“Police!” she shouts.
Nothing. Not a faint footstep, creak or whisper. Gary sighs, realizing he feels superstitiously reluctant about entering. Not just because of the rancid aroma of death. There’s something else. Something primal that seems to be urging him to turn and walk away, right now.
Sarge?” Cheryl looks up at him, one pencil-thin eyebrow raised questioningly.
He glances at his five-foot-four, barely-breaking-one-hundred pounds companion. At over six foot and almost two hundred eighty pounds, Gary is the Baloo to Cheryl’s delicate Bambi. At least, in looks. Personality-wise, suffice it to say, Gary cries at Disney movies.
He gives her a small, grim nod and the pair step inside.
The ripe, rich smell of human decay is overwhelming. Gary swallows, trying to breathe through his mouth, wishing fervently that someone else—anyone else—could have taken this call. Cheryl pulls a disgusted face and covers her nose with her hand.
These small cottages are fairly typical in layout. Small hallway. Stairs to the left. Living room to the right and a tiny kitchen tacked on the back. Gary turns toward the living room. Pushes open the door.
Gary has seen dead bodies before. A young kid killed by a hit-and-run driver. A teenager mangled in farm equipment. They were horrible, yes. Needless, most definitely. But this. This is bad, he thinks again. Really bad.
“F***,” Cheryl whispers, and Gary couldn’t have put it better himself.
Everything conveyed in that single appalled expletive. F***.
A woman is slumped on a worn leather sofa in the middle of the room, facing a large flatscreen TV. The TV has a spiderweb crack in its front around which dozens of fat bluebottles crawl lazily.
The rest buzz around the woman. The body, Gary corrects himself. Not a person anymore. Just a corpse. Just another case. Pull it together.
Despite the bloating of putrefaction he can tell that in life she had probably been slim, with pale skin, now mottled and marbled with green veins. She is dressed well. Checked shirt, fitted jeans and leather boots. Telling her age is difficult, mainly because most of the top of her head is missing. Well, not exactly missing. He can see chunks of it stuck to the wall and the bookcase and the cushions.
Not much doubt about who pulled the trigger. The shotgun still rests in her lap, bloated fingers bulging around it. Quickly, Gary assesses what must have happened. Gun inserted into her mouth, pulls the trigger, bullet exits slightly to the left, as that’s where the worst damage is, which makes sense, as the gun is in her right hand.
Gary is only a uniformed sergeant and doesn’t have a lot to do with forensics, but he does watch a lot of CSI.
Decomposition probably occurred quite rapidly. It’s hot in the little cottage, stifling in fact. The temperature outside is mid-seventies, the windows are shut and, although the curtains are pulled, it must be creeping up to ninety. He can already feel the sweat trickling down his back and dampening his underarms. Cheryl, who never loses her cool, is wiping her forehead and looking uncomfortable.
“Shit. What a mess,” she says, with a weariness he doesn’t often hear.
She stares at the body on the sofa, shaking her head, then her eyes shift around the rest of the room, lips pursed, face grim. Gary knows what she is thinking. Nice cottage. Nice car. Nice clothes. But you never really know. You never really know what goes on inside.
Apart from the leather sofa the only other furniture is a heavy oak bookcase, a small coffee table and the TV. He looks at it again, wondering about the crack in the screen and why the flies are so interested in crawling all over it. He takes a few steps forward, broken glass crunching beneath his feet, and bends down.
Closer, he spots the reason. The splintered glass is covered in dark, crusted blood. More has run down the screen to the floor, where, he realizes, he has only just avoided standing in a sticky puddle that has spread over the floorboards.
Cheryl moves to stand beside him. “What’s that? Blood?”
He thinks about the bike. The rain boots. The silence.
“We need to check the rest of the cottage,” he says. She looks at him with troubled eyes and nods.
The stairs are steep, creaky and streaked with more trails of dark blood. At the top a narrow landing leads to two bedrooms and a tiny bathroom. If possible, the heat on the landing is more intense, the smell even more repugnant. Gary gestures for Cheryl to go and check the bathroom. For a moment he thinks she’ll argue. It’s obvious that the smell is coming from one of the bedrooms but, for once, she lets him play the senior officer and walks cautiously across the landing.
He faces the first bedroom door, a bitter metallic taste in his mouth, and then, slowly, eases it open. It’s a woman’s room. Clean, neat and empty. Wardrobe in one corner, chest of drawers by the window, large bed covered with a pristine cream duvet. On the bedside table, a lamp and a solitary picture in a plain wooden frame. He walks over and picks it up. A young boy, ten or eleven, small and wiry, with a toothy smile and messy blond hair. Oh God, he finds himself praying. Please, God, no.
With an even heavier heart he walks back out into the corridor to find Cheryl looking pale and tense.
“Bathroom’s empty,” she says, and he knows that she is thinking the same thing. Only one room left. Only one door to open to reveal the grand prize. He angrily swats away a fly and would have taken a steadying breath if the smell hadn’t already been choking him. Instead, he reaches for the handle and pushes the door open.
Cheryl is too tough to be sick, but he still hears her make a retching noise. His own stomach gives a good solid heave but he manages to fight the nausea back down.
When he thought this was bad, he was wrong. This is a f***ing nightmare.
The boy lies on his bed, dressed in an oversized T-shirt, baggy shorts and white sports socks. The elastic of the socks digs into the swollen flesh of his legs.
Bright white socks, Gary can’t help noticing. Blindingly white. Fresh-on white. Like a detergent ad. Or perhaps they just seem that way because everything else is red. Dark red. Streaking the oversized T- shirt, smeared all over the pillows and sheets. And where the boy’s face should be just a big mushy mess of red, features indiscernible, crawling with busy black bodies, flies and beetles, wriggling in and out of the ruined flesh. His mind flicks back to the splintered TV screen and the puddle of blood on the floor, and suddenly he sees it. The boy’s head being smashed into the TV again and again, then hammered into the floor until he is unrecognizable, until he has no face.
And maybe that was the point, he thinks, as he raises his eyes to the other red. The most obvious red. The red it is impossible to miss. Big letters scrawled across the wall above the boy’s body:
NOT MY SON