The Gathering by C. J. Tudor

The Gathering by C. J. Tudor  a horror book review by Jim Mcleod

It has been a long time since I last read a vampire. Very few have flown across my radar in recent years. And those that have all sounded like they were either retreading old ground or happy to remain stagnant in the graves, unwilling to push the boundaries of such an old and overused creature.  

And I must admit that C.J. Tudor is an author I haven’t read before. We have favourably reviewed previous books from the author on GNoH from other review team members, but until now, I had never taken the plunge. This puts a lot of pressure on this book. A new author walking the graveyard spaces of one of my favourite monsters, does The Gathering by C.J. Tudor unlive up to my expectations?  

Vampires, locals and an isolated town in the Alaskan wilderness might sound like 30 Days of Night. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth; that is where the similarities end. The Gathering by C.J. Tudor isn’t a gorefest novel where we witness the brutal slayings of humans by an unstoppable force of vampire monsters. 

This may upset a few of you expecting a lazy rehash of a genre classic, but stay with me as I show that The Gathering by C.J. Tudor is a horror novel worthy of your attention.  

The Gathering by C.J. Tudor is a powerful novel with much to say about serious issues. Told using a tight, grippy cinematic tone of writing, Tudor manages to squeeze every last drop of the sense of a never-ending, crushing sense of isolation out of the pages of this novel.  

From the opening chapter, which sees Detective Barbara Atkins’s journey to the aptly named town of Deadhart, to the final paragraph of the novel, Tudor paints a vivid picture of the setting to such a point that your brain almost creates a movie of the novel in your head as you read it. The meticulous attention to detail in describing the setting creates a vivid picture in the reader’s mind, drawing them deeper into the story.

Narratively, this is a dark and gritty novel, reading much like a noir novel. Atkin’s journey of discovering the truth of the murder plays out like the best detective fiction. It’s hard not to compare The Gathering to the recent series of True Detective, as both feature strong yet flawed female protagonists going up against the reluctant local community members, uncovering brutal truths. And, of course, both are set in an isolated Arctic community; even if you weren’t the biggest fan of True Detective (like me), The Gathering is infinitely more rewarding and enjoyable. Tudor’s execution of the plot and the conclusion is a lot more satisfying. I found my mind wandering during True Detective, but The Gatherings completely gripped me, thoughtful and intelligent handling of the powerful these explored within the story.  

As stated above, I am a huge fan of vampire novels, particularly those that dare to do something different with them; The Gathering takes the vampire genre by the throat and gives it a fabulous shake. I haven’t read such a fascinating take, filled with intelligent world-building and thoughtful twists on the tired tropes of vampires, since the heady days of Brian Lumley’s Necroscope series. Where The Necroscope books were massive flights of fantasy, The Gathering by C.J. Tudor is grounded firmly in “reality” for want of a better word. Gone are the weakness of garlic; they can walk in daylight, even though that one hurts me whenever it is used. Tudor is respectful to the tropes of old while at the same time ensuring The Gathering doesn’t feel like a hundred other books.  

The Gathering by C.J. Tudor, over and above the horror of the vampires, is a story about persecution, the small-town mentality and the lengths people will go to keep those they deem different down and out. It is a powerful and disturbing allegory to the world we live in right now, and Tudor handles this aspect of the novel extremely well; there is no heavy-handed tub-thumping on show here, but rather a thoughtful and well-constructed description of intolerance and fear.  

The Gathering by C.J. Tudor is a major accomplishment. It works as both a gripping horror novel and an insightful look at the world today. More importantly, it gives the vampire story a real set of fangs, something that has been severely lacking in recent years. So grab your cape and take a massive bite into the neck of this exemplary book. 

The Gathering by C. J. Tudor 

the gathering by c.j. tudor

An incredibly exciting novel, tightly plotted and brilliantly tense, with an atmosphere you could eat with a spoon’ STUART TURTON

‘A cracking read and such assured writing. She just gets better and better!’ SARAH PINBOROUGH

In a small Alaskan town, a boy is found with his throat ripped out and the blood drained from his body.
The brutality of the murder of the murder chillingly echoes a killing from twenty-five years ago.
Out-of-state detective Barbara Atkins is brought in to assist the sheriff, Jensen Tucker, who investigated the original case.

However, the inhabitants of Deadhart believe they know who is responsible: one of the nearby vampyr colony who live in an old mining settlement deep in the mountains.

Barbara is under pressure to authorize a cull of the entire colony.

But the evidence doesn’t stack up, people are lying, and the more Barbara and Tucker delve into Deadhart’s history, the darker the secrets they uncover.

As the snow thickens and the nights grow longer, another teenager goes missing and body parts are found.

Time is running out for Barbara and Tucker to find the truth.

Are they hunting a cold-blooded murderer, or a bloodthirsty monster?

And which is more dangerous?

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  • Jim Mcleod

    Jim "The Don" Mcleod has been reading horror for over 35 years, and reviewing horror for over 16 years. When he is not spending his time promoting the horror genre, he is either annoying his family or mucking about with his two dogs Casper and Molly.

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1 comment

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Alan Toner, Horror Author

I have just discovered C. J. Tudor and have bought some of her books to sample. I hope to do a review of each once I have read them.