- The Taking of Annie Thorne.
- C. J. Tudor.
- 352 pages.
- Horror / Fiction / Thriller / Mystery.
- My Rating: Hell Yeah Book Review.
One night, Annie went missing. Disappeared from her own bed. There were searches, appeals. Everyone thought the worst. And then, miraculously, after forty-eight hours, she came back. But she couldn’t, or wouldn’t, say what had happened to her.
Something happened to my sister. I can’t explain what. I just know that when she came back, she wasn’t the same. She wasn’t my Annie.
I didn’t want to admit, even to myself, that sometimes I was scared to death of my own little sister.
I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Quotes are taken from an ARC copy of the book.
Tudor burst onto the scene early in 2018 with her much-lauded debut The Chalk Man. I loved it, it is featured in my The Top Twenty Books I read in 2018 blog post and for me, it is thoroughly deserving of all the praise that it has received and it is firmly cemented as one of the standout books and debuts of last year.
The Taking of Annie Thorne was one of my most anticipated books of 2019 and my expectations for it were sky high. I was chomping at the bit to read it, fully aboard the hype train and with The Chalk Man and Tudor catching lightning in a bottle I was also eager to see if she could do it again with The Taking of Annie Thorne.
Well, could she?? Were my expectations met??
Resoundingly yes! Yes, they most certainly were!
The Chalk Man showed that Tudor was a talented writer, got her noticed and showed that she was ‘one to watch’. The Taking of Annie Thorne proves that initial promise and firmly cements Tudor’s reputation as one of the best modern writers out there.
The Taking of Annie Thorne is a book that will make you conflicted. You will be conflicted because, on one hand, you will want to race through the pages, devouring the book and consuming the story. Then, on the other hand, you will want to take your time, savouring each and every page and treasuring the story.
Hell, Tudor even gives a nod to The A-Team! I loved that show as a kid and when I read the reference I was smiling like a crazy fool! There’s a small nod to The Chalk Man included too which just like the aforementioned The A-Team nod had me grinning away at its inclusion. They are both only small things and trivial to the story in The Taking of Annie Thorne. But, it is that added attention to detail on the part of Tudor and the feeling that you get as a reader from them and the book on a whole that makes you realise that you are reading something extra special.
Enter Sandman by Metallica is also mentioned in The Taking of Annie Thorne and sorry folks, I’ve got to do it, I’ve got to parody the lyrics! 🙂 During The Taking of Annie Thorne there are moments when you will find yourself ‘reading with one eye open, gripping your book tight.‘😂😜
Tudor starts The Taking of Annie Thorne with a prologue that sets the scene for the rest of the book. It is decidedly dark and not for those who have a faint-heart and an aversion to gore. Yes, it catered perfectly to my own tastes and love of darkness! 🙂
“Except shadows are never just shadows. They are the deepest part of the darkness. And the deepest part of the darkness is where the monsters hide.”
Joe Thorne, forty-years-old and running away from his gambling debts reluctantly moves back to Arnhill, his childhood home and the village that he left many years before. Taking a recently vacated position, a job teaching at the local school, Arnhill Academy.
Before this, however, Joe received an anonymous and mysterious email telling him that “I know what happened to your sister. It’s happening again.” But more than that, on a subconscious level and due to the past, Joe was, one day, always going to return to Arnhill as you can’t escape your past and also, the past shapes the present.
Twenty-five years ago, when Joe was a fifteen-year-old his eight-year-old sister, Annie, of the book’s title went missing for a forty-eight hour period. Her absence went unexplained and Annie, herself couldn’t remember where she had been. On her return, she looked the same but she wasn’t and something in Annie had changed.
In the present, Joe returns to Arnhill to lay the ghosts of the past to rest and finally confront the truth about what happened to Annie twenty-five-years ago.
Joe’s return to Arnhill is met with animosity by most. It’s a place for locals not outsiders, people don’t leave and even though Joe was born and raised there, he left and is now deemed as being an ‘outsider’ by the Arnhill residents. With his return, storm clouds are rolling in and the locals don’t want him back, fearing nothing good can come of his return.
As the main character, Joe isn’t the most likeable sort, he’s not a hero, he isn’t a good guy either nor is he a bad guy, He’s just a guy, an ‘average Joe’ if you will. If anything he is a liar who lives on secrets and half-truths with a tendency towards sarcasm and a flippant attitude. What he is, however, is a compelling character who is ably assisted in both timelines by a stellar cast of supporting characters that drive the story forward as the mystery deepens.
“Grief is the worst kind of torture and it never ends. You have dibs on that dungeon for the rest of your life.”
To go along with the present day storyline there is also a past storyline taking place in 1992 and detailing the events that led up to Annie going missing and her return.
In 1992, as a teenager, Joe wasn’t one of the popular or cool kids. He was on the outskirts, an outcast who preferred comic books and video games to sports and spent large amounts of time with Annie, his younger sister. Then, Joe changed, joined a gang led by the local bad boy Stephen Hurst (Joe, Hurst, Fletcher and Chris aka Doughboy made up the gang along with Marie, Hurst’s girlfriend) and his time with Annie diminished. We get to see the gang’s school life, what they get up to and the Thorne family life too all adding to and building the picture of what really happened to Annie.
“Places have secrets too, I think. Like People. You just need to dig. In land, in life, in a man’s soul.”
The setting, Arnhill, which is as much an integral character as the human characters is a small village in Nottinghamshire that has seen better days. It is a village with a history where many misfortunes have occurred and it is a community on the decline since the colliery closed thirty years ago. The mine though rumoured to be haunted with tales of ghosts, ghouls and other things that dwell in the darkness, go bump in the night and inhabit the underground caves, shafts and mine tunnels was the beating heart of Arnhill and the jobs it provided the lifeblood. Without it, Arnhill is a harsh setting, it is a grim place that has seen better days and making a living there is hard. It is greyed out, leached of colour, a bleak and colourless monotone and it is like a movie star past their prime and fading into obscurity.
There’s a theme of bullying in The Taking of Annie Thorne and Tudor doesn’t shy away from or sugarcoat the harshness of the subject and the effect that it has on those involved. She paints a grim picture of school life at Arnhill Academy that is only very rarely punctuated by small acts of kindness and motes of colour.
In The Taking of Annie Thorne Tudor’s writing seems more self-assured and honed. She has her own style and she is comfortable with it. There is a dark humour laced throughout and at times, her writing is infused with a flair for the poetic. The book is just so well written and the story so well executed with Tudor bringing her characters, her setting and her story all to life.
The Taking of Annie Thorne is chilling and compulsive in equal measure with something that prickles away, niggling at the back of your neck throughout its length. A sense of unease, a feeling of gathering dread, lurking in the background, creeping around, hiding in the shadows, a serpent ready to strike and the epilogue, well, the epilogue is fucking chilling. Like with the rest of the book, the horror is (mostly) understated but it is a nightmare’s nightmare and leaves you with a lingering sense of disquiet that ends The Taking of Annie Throne on an unsettling and unforgettable note.
The Taking of Annie Thorne is a book of the highest quality, it is flawless reading, a macabre marvel and insidiously intense.
Tudor has quickly become one of my favourite authors and I believe that come to the end of 2019 The Taking of Annie Thorne, like The Chalk Man in 2018 will grace many ‘best of’ lists for the best books of the year.
Pre-order The Taking of Annie Thorne released on February 21st, 2019 in the UK and released as The Hiding Place on February 5th, 2019 in the US.
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