This book is the second one I read by C.J. Tudor. The first one was The Chalk Man- which I felt was strongly influenced by Stephen King and so had mixed feelings about it (to be fair, the writer does cite King to be her one of her big influences).
The Taking of Annie Thorne is told by Joseph “Joe” Thorne’s point of view, whose younger sister is Annie. Joe returns to his mining hometown of Arnhill, Nottinghamshire (this is something I needed to remind myself over and over as I felt the book was based in the US). The mining industry has long been shut and as the dirty soot, there is an air of dread and sombreness in the town and its people.
Joe is replacing a teacher who had killed herself and had written with her own blood on the bedroom wall NOT MY SON. This sort of opening just sucked me into the book. It’s creepy. It’s morbid. It’s dark. It’s perfect for horror fans.
Joe had received a mysterious email that said: I know what happened to your sister. It is this email that prompts Joe to return to Arnhill. Joe himself has a very shady past and so his motive to return to Arnhill is a mystery.
We find out that Annie had disappeared into the woods when she was eight years old. 48 hours later, she walks back out from the woods and comes home. Joe knows something is not right because his sister is not a sister anymore. She is someone or something else.
Joe also confronts Stephen, the kid whi bullied him in school. Now an adult, Stephen is again bullying Joe in an attempt to run him out of town.
Eventually, it’s all about the mines, which is where they used to gather as schoolboys. This time, they are there are adults. it is rumored that these mines are haunted, and it is the things that go bump in the night that kept the town alive.
Joe is back here. He wants to lay rest the ghosts of his pasts. He wants to find out the answer to what happened to his sister. He wants to free himself from the bad memories. What happens in the mines when Joe goes there? Does he find peace? And what really did happen to Annie?
I loved the beginning of the book. With its graphic description of the crime scene, I was hooked. I loved how Tudor wrote this part of the book. As I followed Joe’s story, his return to Arnhill, I was intrigued. Joe confronting his past, especially the bully, was an interesting part of the book. This was an interesting area to explore by the writer: do kid bullies remain as bullies as adults? Do the parents pass on their bullying attitude to their children?
However, the only let down for me was when the whole mine scene is played out. It felt so much like the children/ adults from Stephen King’s It. I had to yank myself back time and again to this town of Arnhill and Joe. (For those who haven’t read King’s book, will not face the issue I had).
As with all books, the ending is what makes a lasting impression. In this case, as much as I loved the beginning of the book, I felt very meh towards the end. Personally speaking, the book doesn’t really veer into the horror genre but more into the mystery crime genre, which let down my expectations.
Having said that, I cannot deny that Tudor is a great writer. She has the skills to come up with a narrative that is gripping and literally makes you want to turn the pages. She has said on record that Stephen King is a huge influence and so that influence creeps into her books. However, I will be looking out for new books because she sure has the talent to be the female version of Stephen King.