Reviews by L. J. Roberts


S. J. TUDOR – The Burning Girls. Ballantine Books, hardcover, February 2021. Penguin, softcover, September 2021Setting: Sussex, England; contemporary.

First Sentence: “It’s an unfortunate situation.”

   Reverend Jack Brooks and 14-year-old daughter Flo have been transferred to Chapel Croft in Sussex. A community with a very dark past including the burning of martyrs, disappearance of two girls, and the suicide of a priest. With no one being who they seem and not knowing who to trust, can Jack and Flo survive while exposing closely-guarded secrets?

   The best books grab you from page one and don’t let go. This book does just that. One thing to know; there are a lot of bodies; new, old, spectral, and real. The story is more suspense than mystery, and never boring.

   Tudor has a compelling voice. It’s engaging and conversational in both outward dialogue and internal thoughts. Jack and daughter Flo hold one’s attention and curiosity to know more. It’s nice that Flo acts appropriately for her age. However, both occasionally suffer from going into danger alone, yet both are also smart, brave and interesting.

   Beyond the elements of voice and character, there are a plethora of memorable passages: another indication of a great author. Tudor makes one stop and think— “We all have our hiding places. Not just physical ones. Places deep inside where we put away the things we don’t want other to see.”

   Rather than having an unreliable narrator, this is the case of “trust no one” in the best possible way. No one is who they seem and everyone has secrets.

   There are an abundance of very effective plot twists and revelations from beginning to end. Some of them scare, some cause one to gasp, all of them surprise.

   It’s hard to say much about the plot without saying too much and spoiling the suspense and the fun of reading it. The only problems were a couple silly, editing issues. Ignore them.

   The Burning Girls is a great, escapist read, especially for those who like a bit of dark, eepy-creepy. There is a supernatural element, but doesn’t stop an enjoying an engrossing, page-turning book that keeps one reading way too late into the night, but one may want to leave the light on. The story holds one’s attention from first page to last and makes one happy Tudor has more books to read.

Rating: VG Plus.