Book Review: "The Hiding Place" by C.J. Tudor
“..he is desperate. And desperate people will try anything. They’re looking for a miracle.”
In the small town of Arnhill where C.J. Tudor’s gripping new thriller, The Hiding Place, takes place, desperation hangs in the air like carbon-monoxide.
Our ambiguously-moral leading man is desperate trying to reclaim a piece of his past. His old nemesis is trying desperately to save someone he loves. An elderly school secretary is desperate to save the town of Arnhill from the proverbial canker worm that has burrowed into the heart of the town.
“Never go back,” our leading man Joe monologizes, “that’s what people tell you.” “The past has a habit of repeating on you. Like bad curry.” This rondo of a novel is like a fine jazz riff, combining a soupçon of melancholy with the biting, caffeinated energy of purpose.
What is not desperate is Tudor’s plotting. Like her freshman debut, The Chalk Man, this sophomore entry fills its pages with intrigue, danger, and surprise. The characters, while not exactly “likable,” have their own motives and egos that endear them to the reader in small, carefully parceled-out doses.
One of Tudor’s major strengths, which is magnified in this genre in particular, is her ability to ward off cliché. Gone are the action-hero buzz-words and damsels-in-distress that have plagued thrillers since the time of Mickey Spillane. In fact, Tudor seems to have distilled the best assets of Spillane: fast-moving pace, snippy dialogue, and an inability to needlessly sentimentalize. Joe himself is an anti-hero in the best “Spillanian” way, allowing us to adore and despise him in well-measured teaspoons.
Tudor has become a name to watch and, after devouring this newest volume, I wouldn’t be surprised if Hollywood would soon light up the phones in the Tudor household.
(Post-Script: For those of you that are afflicted with Entomophobia, I suggest you take a Valium before cracking open this firecracker!)