The Drift by CJ Tudor

Posted On 17 January 2023

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My Five Word TL:DR Review: Clever, ever spiralling downwards, horror

The Drift

Well, this was a surprise.  I don’t think I looked at the description for this one at all before I picked it up.  I really like the author’s style and quite often these days prefer to pick up my reads knowing as little as possible.  So, yes, this was a surprise.  A compelling read, totally engrossing in fact, it’s not going to give you a grin on your face when you’re reading but it will keep you turning the pages into the early hours and it’s just the most unusual combination of post apocalyptic survival meets locked room mystery (well mysteries to be correct) that I’ve ever read.

I really don’t want to give away too much about the plot with this review because I’m keen to avoid spoilers, primarily because the story follows three POVs and certainly one of the ‘big’ intrigues is trying to figure out how these three characters are connected.  What I can say without giving away too much is this is a novel that takes place in the near future (I don’t recall seeing any dates but that’s where I would hazard a guess).  A pandemic has changed society beyond recognition killing great swathes of the population.  Those that survived, known as Whistlers because of the noise they make when breathing, are altered into an almost zombie like state, a few becoming violent and bloodthirsty.  The remaining population are basically trying to stay alive whilst hoping for a cure.  I would say, before going further, that this isn’t a typical zombie apocalypse type story so if that isn’t usually your type of read then this may still be of interest.  Of course, the Whistlers still play a part here, this is horror and it can be quite bloody and brutal in parts, but this is more a suspenseful thriller, a race against time and a locked room style mystery that is positively claustrophobic.

We have three key characters.  Hannah, a young woman trapped on board a coach that has careened off the road killing a number of the passengers in the process and effectively leaving the others trapped on board.  It doesn’t take long before a couple of characters figure out that the journey was sabotaged before it set off.  Meg is an ex police officer who wakes up to find herself on board a cable car, she has no idea how she got there, her personal possessions have been removed, the car is stuck (very high above ground) and a storm threatens, on top of that there are others on board and one of them is already dead.  The final character is Carter.  He is based in a retreat with a number of other characters, the place is protected by electric fencing and digital locks but unfortunately the power seems to be faltering and with it any semblance of security (not to mention the locks on the doors in the basement).

I found this totally absorbing and I loved the way the stories eventually come together because it was completely unexpected – which could of course be simply a result of my tiny brain not making the necessary leaps to connect the dots – but, I think it’s very clever, well executed and compelling.

The writing is excellent, the characters really jump off the page, the pacing is perfect and there’s a steady stream of action mixed with periods of reflection.  The dialogue is really good and manages to prevent the book from becoming dismal or too dark.

On top of this I loved that we start off with a number of players in each story and eventually they become less in number.  It’s like a less cosy version of an Agatha Christie novel (think, for example, of And Then There Were None).  Gradually, we lose characters along the way, the central POVs eventually start to discover more about their companions and eventually the reveals are made, with much drama and jaw dropping.

In terms of criticisms.  Well, this isn’t a laugh out loud sort of story, the characters are in a fight for survival and quite often make shocking decisions.  At the end of the day they’ve become almost immune to death and used to making tough decisions to stay alive – as is stated during the story ‘the earth is full of dead good guys’.  The thing is though, this could very easily become the type of read that feels too dark and maybe drags you down but that’s not the experience I had.  I think I was too caught up in the mystery of the three and how they would come together combined with the intrigue of each of their own separate stories and how they would each overcome the difficulties they were facing.

I enjoyed this very much, it was quick and clever, darkly humorous at times, horrific at others and frankly unputdownable.  A cunning plot executed with confidence and ease.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the author, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

My rating 4.5 of 5 stars


4 Responses to “The Drift by CJ Tudor”

  1. maddalena@spaceandsorcery

    Thank you so much for sharing this! It sounds like the kind of dark, immersive read that I enjoy from time to time – even though after I always need some rainbows and unicorns… 😉

  2. pagesandtea

    ‘A less cosy version of an Agatha Christie novel’ – No surprise that I’m going to say I probably need to read this 😀

  3. Tammy

    I’m going to be reading this soon. It sounds sooo good!

  4. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    I’m reading this one now, and it is wild… 😀

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