I don’t normally review books months in advance of their publication (as I’m always behind with my reading), but, for some reason, I read a comment about this book, and as I’ve been following the author for the last few years and have always enjoyed her novels, I managed to convince myself that I had missed the launch of the book, managed to get hold of a review copy, and rushed to read it as soon as I could, only to discover that it is not due to be published until the 19th of January 2023. I considered programming the post for later, but as I don’t know what my circumstances will be like by then, and the book is already available for pre-order, I thought I’d share the review with you. I’ve realised that the author had published a book of short stories as well, and I hope to bring you those in the near future.
This is a good one.
The Drift by C. J. Tudor
An overturned coach. A stranded cable car. An isolated chalet . . .
Three groups of strangers. A deadly killer. No escape.
THE DRIFT . . . survival can be murder
Praise for C. J. Tudor:
‘C. J. Tudor is terrific. I can’t wait to see what she does next’ Harlan Coben
‘Britain’s female Stephen King’ Daily Mail
‘A mesmerizingly chilling and atmospheric page-turner’ J.P. Delaney
‘Her books have the ability to simultaneously make you unable to stop reading while wishing you could bury the book somewhere deep underground where it can’t be found. Compelling and haunting’ Sunday Express
‘Some writers have it, and some don’t. C. J. Tudor has it big time’ Lee Child
‘A dark star is born’ A. J. Finn
About the author:
C. J. Tudor lives with her partner and young daughter. Her love of writing, especially the dark and macabre, started young. When her peers were reading Judy Blume, she was devouring Stephen King and James Herbert.
Over the years she has had a variety of jobs, including trainee reporter, radio scriptwriter, dog walker, voiceover artist, television presenter, copywriter and, now, author.
Her first novel, The Chalk Man, was a Sunday Times bestseller and sold in thirty-nine territories.
Thanks to NetGalley and to Penguin UK for providing me an ARC copy of this novel, which I freely chose to review.
I discovered C. J. Tudor when she published her first novel, The Chalk Man, and I had no doubt that her name would become a familiar one for many readers. I have read several of her novels since (all of them, if I’m not wrong), and I also have a collection of her short stories already waiting on my reader. I am happy recommending her books to readers who love thrillers with a touch of menace and more than a few drops of dark humour. Her writing is fluid and engaging; her plots are gripping, and her protagonists always have a surprise or two in stock for us. She is the real deal.
All of this is in evidence in her latest novel, which is due to be published in January 2023.
The description of the plot is sparse, and that is for a very good reason. As you can guess, the action of the book is divided into three settings, and readers of classic mysteries will soon realised that they all seem to be variations of the isolated location mystery: a number of characters are locked (sometimes physically, sometimes not) in a place that is not easily accessible to others, where strange things start to happen (characters disappearing and being murdered are the most common). One of the characters becomes the de-facto investigator (sometimes a real investigator, sometimes not), and readers follow this character’s attempts at finding out what is going on. So, here we have a similar situation, only that we have three stories taking place in three different locations, in a fairly dystopian version of the not-so-distant future (although nowadays not quite as outlandish as it might have been a few years back) where the population has been decimated by an infectious illness. We have two groups of survivors headed to the same safe place, and the third is a group of people actually working and living at that safe location. I can’t share too many details of the story without revealing too much, but I can say that two of the characters whose point of view we follow are women (one, Hanna, a young student, and the other, Meg, an ex-policewoman), and then there is Carter, who works at the Retreat. All of them are survivors, all of them keep secrets, and you would be right if you thought these groups must be connected somehow. But no, of course, I can’t tell you how.
Those readers who worry about different storylines and points of view making things confusing don’t need to worry. Although the three stories are narrated in the third person, each section is clearly labelled, and the three characters are quite different in their thoughts and outlooks, so confusion should not be an issue. For those who appreciate having advance warning, there is violence; there are pretty graphic scenes that have made some reviewers class it as horror (I think it is a combination of both thriller and horror, but I love horror, so that is a plus for me), and there is nothing cozy about the story (even though there is a dog and… No, I can’t say). Also, those who prefer not to read and/or think about pandemics after COVID-19 might want to give it a miss.
Anybody who doesn’t fall into these categories appreciates a well-written, tightly plotted, and gripping story (stories) that will keep their mind going and wandering about what is really going on and who is doing what should read this novel. I liked the two female protagonists in particular (not that they were without their issues and contradictions), but even in the case of the male, their circumstances and their sheer determination to keep going made me side with them and keep reading. The story centres on the plot, which is beautifully and cleverly constructed, but the characters have to face many personal and moral challenges, and some of the questions and decisions they have to make will have all readers wondering about right and wrong and about what they would do if they were in the same circumstances.
Despite the tense atmosphere and the dire straits, the characters find themselves in, or perhaps because of them, the author also offers us some glimpses of humour (mostly dark), some beautiful descriptions, and thought-provoking reflections that allow us to catch our breath. There are some wonderful little details that we only become fully aware of at the end (oh, and I love the ending, mini-epilogue and all), and I am very impressed by the talent of the author to make all the pieces of the puzzle come together seamlessly. People who love a mystery will probably start to tie some threads early on, and some will be faster than the characters (although, of course, we have more information than they have, and we are not under the same kind of pressure), but, my guess is that most won’t be disappointed when everything is revealed.
In sum, this is another great novel by C.J. Tudor, and one that I am sure will keep her followers coming back for more. And those who haven’t read her yet, if you like the sound of this, what are you waiting for?
I leave you a few quotes, although I recommend checking a sample online if you aren’t sure the writing style will suit your taste.
‘Here’s the other thing my grandpa taught me. You´re either a good guy or you’re a survivor. And the earth is full of dead good guys.’
One of the characters, when asked why they care, says:
‘Because caring is all we have left. If we stop caring —about life, about other people— who are we? What have we become?’
If the road to hell is paved with good intentions, it’s also a oneway street. No going back.
Thanks to the publisher, the author, and to NetGalley for this very early ARC copy (there might be changes to the final version, although I didn’t spot any evident mistakes), and thanks to you all for your patience, your comments, and for reading my reviews and sharing them around. Make sure you keep reading, and never forget to smile. ♥