Synopsis: Driving home one night, stuck behind a rusty old car, Gabe sees a little girl’s face appear in the rear window. She mouths one word: ‘Daddy.’ It’s his five-year-old daughter, Izzy. He never sees her again. Three years later, Gabe spends his days and nights travelling up and down the motorway, searching for the car that took his daughter, refusing to give up hope, even though most people believe that Izzy is dead.
Fran and her daughter, Alice, also put in a lot of miles on the motorway. Not searching. But running. Trying to keep one step ahead of the people who want to hurt them. Because Fran knows the truth. She knows what really happened to Gabe’s daughter. She knows who is responsible. And she knows what they will do if they ever catch up with her and Alice…
Having read and enjoyed C.J. Tudor’s previous two books (The Chalk Man and The Taking of Annie Thorne), I was extremely excited to read The Other People and experience her dark, gritty narrative voice once more. Tudor’s knack for crafting engaging mysteries and suspenseful plots propels her up to the highest echelon of horror writers, keeping her readers on the edge of their seat whilst getting ready to push them off. Her plots are intricate things of dark beauty, immaculate in their construction so that once you begin the book, it is like a Rube Goldberg machine of shocks, reveals and cliff-hangers until the very final page. The Other People leans more towards thriller than horror, playing upon primal fears surrounding the dark web and child abduction to strike fear into the reader.
Tudor’s central protagonists always carry a dark secret with them, and Gabe is no different, and it is this gradual unraveling of his shadowy past contrasted against his quest to find his missing daughter that fuels the novel. Another consistent thread across her books is the use of a ‘killer hook’ to grab the reader by the throat, and the hook in this novel is tremendous, as Gabe glances up to see his own daughter in the back of a stranger’s car whilst he is travelling home on the motorway. Every parent’s worst nightmare, this gut punch in the opening chapters leaves the reader gasping for breath and following Gabe’s journey to discover who took his daughter, and why.
Set mostly on the road and in service stations, The Other People has a unique atmosphere and capitalises on that uneasy feeling of being at a motorway service area and wanting to move on to your eventual destination. Trapped in a cruel limbo, Gabe finds himself adrift from society as he travels up and down the motorways, living in these service station car parks in a desperate attempt to find clues about his daughter’s disappearance. Resonating with anyone who has ever travelled long-distance on the road, there is a distinctive isolating feel to this setting that emphasises how lonely Gabe has become.
Without wanting to give away too much of the twists and turns that make this novel so fantastic to read, Tudor makes use of the dark web as plot device. There has been a recent influx of fiction using this shadowy, uncontrolled and dangerous underbelly of the internet, and it is an area that really fascinates me. The idea of this horrific black market bubbling just beneath the surface of the internet is extremely terrifying, and Tudor taps into that fear brilliantly. It reminded me of another terrific novel I read last year (The Chain) which shared many of the same themes surrounding kidnap and the anonymity of the internet.
Less gory and more psychological than her previous novels, The Other People nevertheless maintains its that trademark Tudor grip on the reader, with cliff-hangers and reveals at the end of almost every chapter that make it difficult to put down. Intense, and with an extremely evocative atmosphere, The Other People might be C.J. Tudor’s finest novel to date and definitely the one best suited for a cinematic adaptation. The characters are brilliantly realised, and the way that the mystery unravels and impacts upon its cast of characters is genius. Given her surname I shouldn’t be surprised, but with her latest book, C.J. Tudor has well and truly ascended her throne as the Queen of modern British horror.
Score – ★★★★★
The Other People is available as an eBook from Amazon Kindle, or collected in hardback format on Amazon and all good bookstores. C.J. Tudor’s previous novels, The Chalk Man and The Taking of Annie Thorne, are also still available.