The Drift

The Drift 1a

Written by: C.J. Tudor
Published by: Penguin UK – Michael Joseph
Available as: Hardcover | Paperback | eBook | Audiobook

Synopsis: Survival can be murder…

Hannah awakens to carnage, all mangled metal and shattered glass. Evacuated from a secluded boarding school during a snowstorm, her coach careered off the road, trapping her with a handful of survivors.

Meg awakens to a gentle rocking. She’s in a cable car stranded high above snowy mountains, with five strangers and no memory of how they got on board.

Carter is gazing out of the window of an isolated ski chalet that he and his companions call home. As their generator begins to waver in the storm, the threat of something lurking in the chalet’s depths looms larger.

Outside, the storm rages. Inside each group, a killer lurks. But who? And will anyone make it out alive?

C.J. Tudor has been one of my favourite authors since her debut novel The Chalk Man, which was one of the first books I ever reviewed on this blog. It was a runaway success, thanks to its killer twist ending and Stephen King-influenced atmosphere, and cemented Tudor as the queen of British horror – a title she worked hard each year to maintain with subsequent release. Tudor’s style is best described as quintessential Britishness served with a slice of supernatural horror; she also knows how to write compelling cliff-hangers and twists that force you to ‘binge-read’ the entire book. Her latest book, The Drift, is something of a departure from her previous works, stepping away from grounding her work in recognisable locales, such as motorway service stations or sleepy villages, and instead developing a post-apocalyptic vision of a world plagued by a deadly infectious disease. Clearly influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic, The Drift feels like a plausible exaggeration of what might have happened if the virus had been slightly different. Much of the paranoia and ruthlessness seen in the book was seen in real life, albeit to different degrees, adding a different type of realism to Tudor’s work.

The novel has three distinctive storylines with alternating chapters dedicated to one of its three protagonists; Hannah, Meg and Carter. At first, it is disorientating as many characters are introduced in quick succession, but it soon becomes clear that these are three separate stories. Despite their different settings (a crashed bus, a broken ski-lift and an isolated retreat), there is a key theme shared across the stories – each of these trapped groups not only has to fight for survival against the elements, but they also each have a murderer among them who is picking them off one by one. The triple narrative ensures a fast pace, and each time the book switches perspective to a different character, Tudor is able to drop a vital clue or cliff-hanger to entice the reader to read “just one more chapter”. As the book continues, the connectivity between the three stories becomes clearer and events in one narrative strand have a direct impact on others. It’s an extremely smart literary technique, and while I did guess one or two of the reveals, Tudor still managed to blindside me with some very effective reveals.

As is typical with C.J. Tudor’s stories, it is tricky to go into too much detail as much of the fun comes from having the rug pulled out from underneath you, but I really enjoyed this switch in format and tone in her writing. Some familiar trends remained, particularly her knack for describing gore in spine-tingling detail, as well as her morally-grey protagonists. Hannah, the pro-active student trapped in an overturned coach, is one highlight and Tudor explores the relationship between an absent father and a neglected daughter well. Her chapters brought a YA fiction edge to the novel with her student comrades attempting to figure out a way to escape the trapped coach and survive the wintry conditions and deadly predators outside. Meg – the second female protagonist – offers an older and wiser perspective. Her backstory is tinged with tragedy, but she is also extremely strong and resilient – her story takes place in a broken-down cable car and is the very definition of a locked room murder mystery as she wakes up to discover a corpse and four potential suspects.

Carter’s story feels tonally different from the outset, and is the one that leans the most into its supernatural post-apocalyptic setting. Again, the story involves a murder mystery, but also descends into a 28 Days Later-esque zombie siege. While each of the three narratives is based upon the same ‘locked room mystery’ format, Tudor remixes the idea with different genres to distinguish each strand. Without going into too much detail, there are a few common themes that stretch across the three stories that unites the narrative into one story, but Tudor doesn’t rush to get there, leaving the reader wondering how these tales are connected for the majority of the story. I really loved the sense of paranoia that pervades the novel, and the icy cold setting evokes memories of the classic survival horror movie, The Thing.

The Drift is an extremely fun novel, and I love that C.J. Tudor is stepping outside of her usual writing style to deliver a different type of horror story. Even without some of her more recognisable trends, The Drift still has her writing voice at its heart and her knack for creating complex and engaging plots is just as prominent in this book as it is in her other horror titles. In my opinion, no other British writer is able to leave their readers open-mouthed (either through shock or horror) in the same way that C.J. Tudor does. A thoroughly good read from beginning to end, The Drift is a thrilling literary triptych filled with death, destruction and plenty of surprises.

Score – ★★★★

The Drift is available as an eBook from Amazon Kindle, or collected in a physical format on Amazon and all good bookstores. C.J. Tudor’s previous novels; The Chalk Man, The Taking of Annie Thorne, The Other People, The Burning Girls and A Sliver of Darkness are also still available.


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