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The Taking of Annie Thorne by C.J. Tudor
Arnhill is an old mining town, the mines long closed up now. Traditionally with mining towns, purpose built living spaces sprung up out of necessity around the old mines and shaped themselves into a town. Yet, when the mines closed, as they inevitably did, a sense of bleak desolation often hangs about a town, reflected in the people and even in the air itself. Joe Thorne ran to escape that desolation once, following the death of his sister and his father but an email with one line is sent to him – ‘I know what happened to your sister. It’s happening again…’ – and he returns back, with trepidation and fear.
Joe is a gambler, returning to Arnhill with his own share of serious problems. HIs debts are mounting and he has no means of repaying them. He left only enemies behind when he first ran from Arnhill and those enemies are still there, only they have grown up from teenagers into unpleasant men with loose fists and long memories. Everyone has memories of when Joe’s sister Annie died. Everyone has memories of when Annie went missing a few weeks before she died. Joe has memories of when Annie came home, carrying the stench of ‘something fetid and something sour on her little body. He has memories of her urinating on herself while laughing maniacally, eyes focused on him all the time. Those memories are the reason that he ran and in a way, those memories are the reason he is back now.
The schoolyard bullies are grown up now and led still by Stephen Hurst, however now instead of influencing the school body, he influences the council and the board, making him a dangerous enemy. C.J Tudor tackles the idea of inheriting bad genes from parents, bullies spawning bullies spawning bullies. This genetic trait is capable of crippling an entire town for generations, the very history of a small town curving and warping around the fear of a family. Stephen Hurst does not want Joe Thorne to return because he has the power to de-throne him and to venture once again into the mines. The mines…
At night the mines lie in wait for those schoolboys to return, yet they aren’t schoolboys anymore. Their secret has hardened each boy into a graven version of himself, that secret taking the form of a little girl holding a doll each time. C.J Tudor writes magnificently in the horror genre, incorporating a solid plot with a good old fashioned horror style. Her writing creates a strong sense of place, not seen for me personally since my early reading of Stephen King and James Herbert. I really disliked the Epilogue, I felt that the plot didn’t need such an obvious suggestion of a sequel or ambiguous ending and I found some of the characters redundant and surplus to requirement. However, I enjoyed the character of Joe Thorne; oftentimes when we return home, it is with a litany of glorious personal trophies. Joe Thorne returned home to Arnhill deeply flawed and his circumstances didn’t improve much, it was nice not to have the glossy central character. The ending left down a watertight plot, working too hard to tie up all of the loose ends, the reader would have been rewarded with a less ornate ending which I felt had too much going on. However, should you read this? Oh god, absolutely. I devoured this book from start to finish. Engrossing, engaging and haunting.
(c) Dymphna Nugent
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