Review by Adrina Palmer
The thrilling second novel from the author of ‘The Chalk Man,’ about a teacher with a hidden agenda who returns to settle scores at a school he once attended, only to uncover a darker secret than he could have imagined.
If you’re looking for a book to keep you up late and hold your attention completely, then ‘The Hiding Place,’ by C.J. Tudor, is for you. The same author wrote the book ‘The Chalk Man’ with fabulous reviews, I can see why. I loved everything about this book straight up until the epilogue. Three questions needed to be answered so I could lay the book to rest with satisfaction. All three were most definitely answered. One answer was a complete shock, the second was surprising, but the clues were all there. The third question failed me. Yes, C.J. gave a response but let far too much to the imagination and I want concrete answers!
Joe is the main character. I love this guy. First, he is severely flawed, just like most of us real humans. His leg was injured a couple of decades ago and he now has a limp. He drinks like a sailor trying to avoid ghosts. He has a gambling addiction and as a result, a massive debt forcing him to keep one foot out of every door. All of these are reason enough to like the man. His best feature though is his ability to see himself as flawed and take his human plight into account. Couple this with some self-deprecating charm and you have yourself a new bestie. One who makes you feel better about yourself as hopefully, you don’t have a hitman close on your trail.
For this reason, along with a mysterious email, Joe returns to his hometown, Arnhill, somewhere in England. The accents almost come through the pages which helps with the slow pace of the book and the back and forth between the sleepy little town in 1992 and in the present. Joe comes back not just to run but to investigate a murder that hit too close to home. His own sister, while not murdered, died under suspicious circumstances and the series of events leading to her death haunt Joe every day of his life.
Now he is back at his old school as a teacher to serve as a cover for his investigation. He even moves into the cottage where the murder took place. Local teacher, the one he replaced, shot herself after killing her only son. Across the wall, she splattered the words, “Not my son.” This senseless murder mystified the town but not the woman had a history of depression despite her strong motherly love. Traveling back to 1992, we learn about Joe’s much younger sister Annie. She disappeared for two days before returning but the child who returned came back changed. Joe’s life changed again when just a couple of weeks later his beloved sister and drunk father died in a car crash leaving him with an emotionally distant mother. Now he sees a similar scenario playing out in his home and he knows just who to blame: his old best friend and leader of their pack, Steve.
Way back when, Steve, Chris, Marie, and Joe were the little group trying to control the school until they decided to explore the shut down mine shafts in town. Long closed, the shafts contain many secrets, and those secrets soon lead to the death of one and the end of friendships. Fast forward to now, Steve, no longer in charge of the secondary school but the town with his wife Marie in tow. Their son follows in daddy’s footsteps to become a bully for a little kid Joe took under his wing. Now, a hitman is not the only one making life uncomfortable for Joe. He has to work fast to put together the secrets of the past before someone manages to put him six feet under.
The plot starts on one road and soon turns onto a side road where bitter friendships die and never quite returns to the plot. Yes, information comes out on the original plot but the other story becomes the central focus. A great story and well worth reading but I want more of the creepy story. Maybe the reason for the plot shift was the need to market the book as a mystery instead of placing it on the horror section shelves. Despite this one issue with the story everything else was well worth my time and makes me interested to read not just this author’s past book but any other subsequent book to come out. C.J.’s style is eloquent, familiar, and intense. Somehow, she takes a dreary little town and turns it into an adventure worthy of Stephen King. Definitely grab this book as soon as it’s out. I just hope you are not as disappointed as I am about the one question left more to the imagination than necessary.
Available in bookstores February 5th