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 kid, 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.