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The Hiding Place

Review

The Hiding Place

THE HIDING PLACE is so much more than just a book. The best way to describe this story is to compare it to an onion. As you peel back each layer of skin --- or, more accurately, as author C. J. Tudor peels it --- you realize you are holding something brand new and decidedly different in your hands. This is such a compulsively readable work of suspense that you will find yourself quickly peeling back page after page to see what revelation Tudor has up her sleeves next. The result is a smart, unforgettable and unsettling novel that should earn itself a much deserved place among the top thrillers of 2019.

Tudor hit it out of the park with her debut, THE CHALK MAN, and now has herself a grand-slam of a follow-up. I usually don't like the interjection of humor into thrillers, but the occasional sarcastic quip or descriptive used by various characters is just what is needed to break the tension lest it become unbearable. This is a novel of secrets and horror of both the human and seemingly supernatural kind.

“The past isn't real. It is simply a story we tell ourselves. And sometimes, we lie.” This statement, made towards the end of the book, is incredibly prophetic and in a way tells you the crux of the entire story with its simplicity. Joe Thorne knows this better than anybody. He’s also about to find out that misremembering the past can bring about a heavy price in the future if you're not prepared to accept the truth.

"THE HIDING PLACE is simply a fantastic read and one of the most effective suspense/horror novels I have read in quite some time. C. J. Tudor suffers no sophomore slump as she has penned a memorable read that I will have a hard time forgetting."

When Joe returns to Arnhill, the small English village in which he grew up, he thinks it will be cathartic. He also has plans for how he wants things to play out. He takes a job as a replacement teacher in the same high school he once attended. To get the position, he falsified both his resume and letters of recommendation. He uses a cane to get around as he has a permanent limp, the result of a car accident that took the life of his father and sister, Annie, in 1992.

There are plenty of people shocked to see Joe reappear in the town that has so many tragic memories for him. In addition, there are a few who are not at all pleased with his presence and will make it quite obvious that he is not welcome. To bring even more negative attention to his return, Joe opts to rent the cottage where a tragic double murder took place. A middle-aged woman went seemingly mad for no good reason, bashed her young son's face into the big-screen TV until it didn't resemble a person any longer, and then took her own life. On the wall above the bed where the boy's corpse lay was an eerie phrase written in blood: NOT MY SON.

This is not the only young person to die tragically, as Joe learns from his school that they are also mourning the unexpected death of a female student. But Joe is not concerned with making a difference in the lives of these high-schoolers; he is there for answers and a bit of revenge. This all stems from the events that took place in 1992. Joe is an outsider even then, yet finds himself tagging along with the biggest bully in school, Stephen Hurst, and his cronies. He likes to keep his enemies close to him and also wants to be around Marie, his first crush and Stephen’s current girlfriend/future wife.

Arnhill is a mining town, and business has not been good. The long-abandoned areas of the mine are a natural draw for bored teenagers looking for a place to cause mischief. One night, Joe, Stephen and their crew sneak down into an unchartered part of the mine. Among their discoveries are numerous white things sticking out of all the walls, which they soon realize are bones, most of which appear to be that of children. How ironic it is that Joe is followed into the mine by Annie. He tries to get her to leave, but the group panics when indecipherable noises freak them out, and they lose most of their light. In the skirmish that ensues, Annie is struck with a crowbar and Joe is unable to find her body in the dark.

Joe's family and the helpful citizens of Arnhill team up with local law enforcement in an effort to find the missing girl. Forty-eight hours after her disappearance, Annie turns up on the doorstep of her house. Joe is especially disturbed as he and his group are the only ones who know that she had been struck in the head with a crowbar and most likely dead. He is also confident that the person at the door, although fully resembling Annie, is not his sister. These passages gave me chills and immediately called to mind the scary content of Stephen King's masterpiece, PET SEMATARY, where young Gage Creed returned from the dead not quite himself and preyed upon his own family.

Joe doesn’t have time to figure things out as the car crash not long after “the return” takes the lives of his father and Annie, and ruins his leg for life. Now, all these years later, Joe wants to confront Stephen, who is a town bigshot and has spawned a son, Jeremy, who is a carbon copy of his bully father. His wife, Marie, is in the last stages of the cancer that is about to claim her life. Nevertheless, even with Stephen and some of his goons beating up Joe and trashing his rental cottage, he will not leave until he gets the justice he seeks.

The problem is that Joe does not have all the answers he needs to move forward with his plan. Now, returning as an adult, he also finds it odd that there are no tombstones in the local cemetery for any children. Arnhill has some secrets that need to remain buried, and Stephen is just one of the caretakers who will do anything to keep it that way.

THE HIDING PLACE is simply a fantastic read and one of the most effective suspense/horror novels I have read in quite some time. C. J. Tudor suffers no sophomore slump as she has penned a memorable read that I will have a hard time forgetting. This is the highest praise I can give to a writer from the heavily populated thriller genre.

Reviewed by Ray Palen on February 15, 2019

The Hiding Place
by C. J. Tudor