- The Chalk Man.
- C. J. Tudor.
- 352 pages.
- Mystery / Thriller / Fiction.
- My Rating: Hell Yeah Book Review.
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.
After seeing so many stellar reviews from my fellow book bloggers for The Chalk Man I found myself with a hankering to check it out! Was the book worth the purchase and the harrowing journey that I had to undertake traversing a town full of yokels, rubes and germs to procure it?!?! Yes, it most certainly was! Tudor has written an atmospheric and dark book that captivates. Leaving you with a sense of satisfaction that your reading time has been time well spent. The disturbing ending to the prologue where a dismembered body is found leaves you with a sense of creeping unease for a foreboding event that’s yet to come and you find yourself gripped from the ominous start.
The story in The Chalk Man is told from dual timelines that alternate in the book and are separated by thirty years. One takes place in 1986 and the other in 2016. The bridge that ties these two together is the narrator of the book, Eddie/Ed.
In 1986 Eddie is a twelve-year-old adolescent. His group of friends consist of Fat Gav, Metal Mickey, Hoppo and Nicky. They live in the town of Anderbury and get up to the usual things kids do, riding bikes, building dens, exploring, adventuring, messing around and generally just having fun. It’s the summer school holidays and they are just kids being kids.
Fat Gav’s birthday takes place during the holidays and by an unknown person, he is given the present of a bucket of chalk. The group decide to use the chalk to draw and leave coded messages for each other outside the others houses. There are symbols that are used but the main aspect of the drawings is that of the chalk man. The group would draw a chalk man with the relevant symbol for where they want to meet. Each member of the group has their own individual colour of chalk so that they know who has left the message and who wants to meet up.
After receiving a chalk man drawing arranging a meet the group all meet up together. Only, the chalk men summoning them weren’t drawn by any of the group! They then follow a trail of the mysterious chalk men messages into the woods where a mutilated body is found.
In the 2016 timeline Eddie now Ed is a forty-two-year-old adult. Ed is an English teacher, a loner who keeps to himself and lives with a lodger still in his family home in Anderbury. The group (mostly) still keep in touch but they aren’t as close as when they were kids and life, time and the events of the past have gotten in the way of their friendship. Thirty years have passed since the tragic events of 1986 and it’s firmly locked in the back of Ed’s mind. That is until one morning he receives a letter in the mail containing a piece of white chalk and a drawing of a chalk man. He hopes it’s a joke, a prank by someone simply trying to get a laugh at his expense but his friends have also received anonymous chalk man letters too. It isn’t a joke and the past rears its head coming back to haunt them as once again a murder is committed. Ed finds himself drawn back to the tragic events of thirty years before. Delving into the past and looking for answers to what really happened in 1986 as secrets unfold and the truth is finally uncovered.
The Chalk Man in both of the timelines is very much a measured and slow burn style of read but it is also perfectly paced and filled with a variety of events, twists, turns, secrets and revelations. Tudor takes her time in building up the setting of Anderbury and its secrets, developing her characters (the main, the secondary and the minor in both timelines) and giving the story that she has crafted plenty of room to breathe, allowing it the chance to really burrow down and get under your skin.
Both of the timelines in The Chalk Man are engaging, intriguing and filled with an air of mystery. But I personally loved the timeline set in 1986 just slightly more than the one that takes place in 2016. As someone born in the 1980’s (near the beginning, yes, I’m old) the references had me smiling and nodding knowingly at certain names, shops (Woolworths was an awesome shop) and products. For me, Tudor got the tone of the era right and reading the flashback chapters it really felt like you were transported back in time to that fateful summer along with Eddie and his group of friends. I also found that the coming of age element to the story told in 1986 really added that little bit extra. The characterisation of the youngsters was absolutely brilliant, the entire group felt real and just as much as the actual story they serve to make The Chalk Man a compelling and fascinating read.
Tudor has a suspenseful style of storytelling that is laced with the occasional usage of dark humour and she manages to constantly pique your interest. Regardless of which timeline you have just read you’ll find a sentence or snippet at the end of each chapter that implies that there is more to something that’s previously been revealed or alludes to something yet to come. It’s a fantastic approach by Tudor that is well executed, hooks you and serves to keep you eager to find out what happens next always leaving you wanting to find out a little bit more about the story.
Oh boy, what an ending! Tudor ties things up nicely whilst simultaneously leaving you enough for you to use your imagination and come to your own conclusions but damn! It’s a chilling final chapter that will stay with you for days afterwards and you are not expecting THAT!
The Chalk Man is the debut book from C. J. Tudor and what a debut it is! I absolutely loved every moment I spent reading The Chalk Man and found it to be fully deserving of the praise and plaudits that it has been garnering! If you are a fan of the mystery or thriller genre then it’s a must-read. Exceptional and addictive!
Purchase The Chalk Man.
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