Okay, so before I sat down and started reading this book that has been sitting in my car for literal months, I thought I might take you back to earlier this year when I read The Chalk Man, another C.J. Tudor book. I have this terrible addiction to buying books when I get bored. I read them all eventually but there’s a stack in my room that I haven’t yet read, some I purchased as long as ten years ago. Sometimes I’ll re-read a favourite or two before I read a new one, so when a friend and I went book shopping one day it was no surprise that I almost bought two books despite having several at home that I still needed to read. I say almost because right as I was about to pay for said books, we noticed that we had a double, but that we wanted to read both books, and so I bought The Nowhere Child by Christian White and she bought The Chalk Man. I read The Nowhere Child in 10 hours, but that’s a different story for a different day, and when my friend told me how good The Chalk Man was and just how much I needed to read it, I couldn’t wait. I finished it in eight and a half hours. Needless to say when I found out C.J Tudor was releasing The Taking of Annie Thorne we were both excited, this book had been sitting in my car since its release date because I’ve been busy doing a lot of things and reading other books and this was a book that deserved my full, undivided attention. I also knew that once I started there was a strong chance that I actually wouldn’t be able to put the book down, and that was how I ended up in the position where I sat down to read it, it’s the middle of winter and I was ready to commit my life (or the next several hours) to this book.
I thought I’d start off easy, it was my lunch break and so I decided to read the prologue whilst my lunch was in the microwave. Rest assured I did not just read the prologue; I was in it for the long haul and was seriously concerned about my productivity for the rest of the day because I could not put the book down. I somehow managed to eat my lunch whilst also reading and at the end of my break time I actually locked the book in my car for fear of the temptation to continue reading, I am weak, and the book was strong. Throughout the first chapter I found myself questioning how Joe fit into the story, I also hoped that C. J. Tudor had followed on from her form in The Chalk Man and was going to drip feed me information throughout the novel and leave me trying to piece the story together before the end because if there’s one thing I love it’s putting on my detective hat and jumping to conclusions. Had I actually read the blurb and not been so impatient with starting the book, I would have known that Joe was the protagonist. It was at the end of chapter two that I thought I was going to stop reading and eat my lunch, but the cliff hanger was too much for me and I powered through. I was excited at the idea of getting some background on what, by this point, I was calling ‘the Annie situation’and I was not disappointed. Thankful for the insight into Joe and Annie’s relationship as siblings I was holding out for more information on what happened. How did we get here Joe? What’s happened? What is the truth about Annie? Who took her? Where did they take her? Why don’t you sound more grateful that she came home?
From here Tudor, in some ways, seems to parallel Joe’s teen years with that of one of his students. At this point that I was able to predict that the storyline progression was going to be SMOOTHE, it was all coming together in my mind (or so I thought, again, I jump to conclusions fast af) and I could envision each chapter as it played out. Extremely well written, the book flashes between the past and present constantly providing more context to the goings on of the present day whilst still leaving an air of mystery by incorporating recurring themes that make absolutely no sense at all. Not even a little bit of sense. Not. At. All. Thank god for that air of mystery though, it allowed meplentyof opportunity to contemplate my own theories about what had and what was going to happen which were all wrong.
When old school friends re-appeared and were revealed to still be living in their home town, I started to get even more invested in this story line, even going as far as say “oh yes. Spill. The. TEA.” aloud in my room, despite nobody being there and also there being no tea because I was reading a book… I was about of a third of the way through the book and still had not even the slightest of inklings about what the heck was “happening again”. What I did know for sure was that, much like Regina George’s hair, this town was filled with secrets. Oh, and Joe all of a sudden had a random gambling debt that seemed to have no real importance to the story line, I had many questions and none were very polite because this point I thought my pal C.J was just having a laugh at my expense, throwing in random things that would perplex me – the nerve! The gambling debt was soon forgotten though as I was reminded that this town was filled with SO. MUCH. MYSTERY. Why aren’t there children buried in the cemetery? Why did Joe have so many skeletons (pun intended) in his closet? Did he have something to do with the ‘mystery’?
At the end of chapter 15 I put the book down, looked at my mother, asked her what the fuck was going on and returned to reading. It wasn’t just Joe that had skeletons, the whole bloody town did. It must be exhausting for that fictional town in the fiction novel to hide all these fictional secrets from me. I wondered if the characters were tired of being mysterious and aloof by this point because my mind was working in over drive trying to work out what the hell was going on. I now have confirmation that they weren’t because the characters with the fictional secrets and the fictional town are, also, fictional. And what does this pit have to do with anything? Who brought that up? It’s all very sudden? Why was everyone lying? EVEN THE GOOD ONES WERE LYING? Also, I think Joe might have PTSD.
By this point in the book so many pieces of information had been drip fed to me and they were swimming around in my mind having a pool party while I tried to piece them all together. This is where things started to get out of control and characters that I liked were all of a sudden shady as all hell and everyone was lying again. I had formed a conspiracy that the whole world was just out to get Joe, maybe the town was full of witches and wizards and they were so concerned that Joe was going to expose them that they just needed to get rid of him. It was also around this time in the book that I really was starting to appreciate Joe’s only REAL friend, it was important that my main girl C.J was focussing on Brendan – but also why?The whole town seemed sinister, so now I couldn’t trust anyone. I mean, I guess I should’ve figured that from the start because it is a crime novel but also, I can’t help that I just get so invested in sub-plots.
From here everything starts to come together so I won’t say too much except shit is hectic. I was also a bit disappointed because it seemed like this was going to follow the same direction as The Chalk Man, but I kept on reading. So many curve balls were thrown at me in the last third of The Taking of Annie Thorne that even now, 4 days on as I’m editing this to post I am SHOOK. So much happened in the last 10 chapters and epilogue that even reflecting on the ending now all I can say to myself is “oh, hell”.
In the end I read this book in 8 hours and 13 minutes. Very good. Thrilling. Mysterious. Shocking. So many different emotions felt and still a whole lot of shookness (yes, that’s a real word now because I say so) is a good result for me. 10/10 would recommend if you’re looking for a book that will keep you on the edge of your seat (literally and metaphorically).