In 1986, Eddie and his friends are just kids on the verge of adolescence. They spend their days biking around their sleepy little English village and looking for any taste of excitement they can get. The chalk men are their secret code; little chalk stick figures they leave for each other as messages only they can understand. But then a mysterious chalk man leads them right to a dismembered body, and nothing will ever be the same.
In 2016, Eddie is fully grown, and thinks he’s put his past behind him. But then he gets a letter in the mail, containing a single chalk stick figure. When it turns out his other friends got the same messages, they think it could be a prank… until one of them turns up dead. That’s when Eddie realizes that saving himself means finally figuring out what really happened all those years ago.
Expertly alternating between flashbacks and the present day, The Chalk Man is the very best kind of suspense novel, one where every character is wonderfully fleshed out and compelling, where every mystery has a satisfying payoff, and where the twists will shock even the savviest reader.
Published by Michael Joseph January 2018 (UK)
I’d heard a LOT about this book before reading it. Bloggers and reviewers were raving about it. When I asked what I should read next on Twitter and Instagram recently, the response was almost unanimous – this one! So, not being one to argue, I picked it up, curious to see what the fuss was about and also with a little apprehension. I mean, when everyone tells you how good something is there’s always the worry that it won’t live up to expectation, right?
Well, it wasn’t after too many pages that I could see why The Chalk Man had proved such a popular choice. C.J Tudor instantly grips the reader, with a shocking scene of murder on the first page and a tantalising way of leading the reader on to “just one more chapter” with constant twists and unanswered questions. This is a book that once you start, there’s just no way you’ll be able to put it down.
I loved the alternating chapters of past and present. Being an child of the eighties myself, I particularly loved the chapters set in this decade, and felt the sense of time was perfectly captured. I loved the dynamics of Eddie’s gang of friends, could imagine them vividly racing about on bikes and making dens in the woods. The chalk drawings are absolute genius. I could completely relate to the idea behind the coded messages between the friends, yet also found them disturbingly creepy!
The atmosphere of this book was vivid – expertly told from a naive adolescent perspective, casting doubt as to whether dangers were always real or the result of an overactive imagination. This cleverly distracts the reader, meaning the twists are unexpected – yet make perfect sense. The chapters in the present are equally gripping although I probably did favour the past slightly, but only for the haunting atmosphere found there. There were a couple of moments throughout the book which genuinely shocked me and made me jump, while the twists keep on coming right up until the very last page. This is a very clever and original book, full of atmosphere and suspense meaning that “one more chapter” turned into the entire book very quickly.
An atmospheric, unnerving and constantly surprising book with a haunting nostalgia that’s irresistible. I can see why The Chalk Man is so popular – it’s certainly deserves it.