CJ Tudor is back with her darkest, twistiest novel yet! Read an excerpt from The Burning Girls
More about the book!
Penguin Random House has shared an excerpt from The Burning Girls by CJ Tudor.
Welcome to the small village of Chapel Croft, where all your worst nightmares come true …
About the author
CJ Tudor is the author of The Burning Girls, The Other People, The Hiding Place and The Chalk Man, which won the International Thriller Writers award for Best First Novel and the Strand Magazine Award for Best Debut Novel.
About the book
Reverend Jack Brooks is looking for a fresh start.
Chapel Croft appears the perfect place, but the village has a dark and dangerous history – and the ghosts of its past refuse to stay buried.
Decades ago, two girls disappeared. And just months ago, the last vicar committed suicide – but not before leaving a message for Jack.
Jack must uncover the truth, or risk sacrificing the village to the evils that lie within.
But the truth is hard to find, when everyone has something to hide. And as long buried secrets of Jack’s own resurface, faith alone will not save them …
Read an excerpt:
‘It’s an unfortunate situation.’
Bishop John Durkin smiles, benevolently.
I’m pretty sure that Bishop John Durkin does everything benevolently, even taking a shit.
The youngest bishop to preside over the North Notts diocese, he’s a skilled orator, author of several acclaimed theological papers and, if he hadn’t at least tried to walk on water, I’d be amazed.
He’s also a wanker.
I know it. His colleagues know it. His staff know it. Secretly, I think, even he knows it.
Unfortunately, no one is going to call him on it. Certainly not me. Not today. Not while he holds my job, my home and my future in his smooth, manicured hands.
‘Something like this can shake the faith of the community,’ he continues.
‘They’re not shaken. They’re angry and sad. But I won’t let this ruin everything we’ve achieved. I won’t leave people now when they need me the most.’
‘But do they? Attendance is down. Classes cancelled. I heard that the children’s groups may move to another church.’
‘Crime scene tape and police officers will do that. This is not a community that has any love for the police.’
‘I understand that – ‘
No, he doesn’t. The closest Durkin gets to the inner city is when his driver takes a wrong turn on the way to his private gym.
‘I’m confident it’s only temporary. I can rebuild their trust.’
I don’t add that I need to. I made a mistake and I need to make amends.
‘So now you can perform miracles?’ Before I can answer or argue, Durkin continues smoothly. ‘Look, Jack, I know you did what you thought was best, but you got too close.’
I sit back stiffly in my seat, fighting the urge to fold my arms like a sulky teenager. ‘I thought that was our job. To build close ties with the community.’
‘It is our job to uphold the reputation of the Church. These are testing times. Everywhere, churches are failing. Fewer and fewer people are attending. We have an uphill battle even without this negative publicity.’
And that is what Durkin really cares about. The newspapers. PR. The Church doesn’t get good press at the best of times and I’ve really screwed things up. By trying to save a little girl and, instead, condemning her.
‘So, what? You want me to resign?’
‘Not at all. It would be a shame for someone of your calibre to leave.’ He steeples his hands together. He really does that. ‘And it would look bad. An admission of guilt. We have to give careful consideration to what we do next.’
I’m sure. Especially considering my appointment here was his idea. I’m his prize show-dog. And I had been performing well, turning the once-derelict inner-city church back into a hub of the community.
‘So, what do you suggest?’
‘A transfer. Somewhere less high profile for a while. A small church in Sussex has suddenly found itself without a priest. Chapel Croft. While they nominate a replacement, they need an interim vicar.’
I stare at him, feeling the earth shift beneath my feet.
‘I’m sorry, but that’s not possible. My daughter is taking her GCSEs next year. I can’t just move her to the other end of the country.’
‘I’ve already agreed to the transfer with Bishop Gordon at the Weldon diocese.’
‘You’ve what? How? Has the post been advertised? Surely there must be a more suitable local candidate – ‘
He waves a hand dismissively. ‘We were chatting. Your name came up. He mentioned the vacancy. Serendipity.’
And Durkin can pull more strings than frigging Geppetto.
‘Try and look on the bright side,’ he says. ‘It’s a beautiful part of the country. Fresh air, fields. A small, safe community. It could be good for you and Flo.’
‘I think I know what’s best for me and my daughter. The answer is no.’
‘Then let me be blunt, Jack.’ His eyes meet mine. ‘This is not a f***ing request.’
There’s a reason why Durkin is the youngest bishop to preside over the diocese and it has nothing to do with his benevolence.
I clench my fists in my lap. ‘Understood.’
‘Excellent. You start next week. Pack your wellies.’