The Chalk Manby C.J. Tudor (Facebook, Twitter)
Published by Crown on Jan 9, 2018
Genres: Adult, Family, Murder, Mystery, Thriller
Source: TLC Book Tours
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I received this book for free from TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
The must-read thriller of 2018, this riveting and relentlessly compelling psychological suspense debut weaves a mystery about a childhood game gone dangerously awry that will keep readers guessing right up to the shocking ending
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 one another as messages only they can understand. But then a mysterious chalk man leads them right to a dismembered body, and nothing is ever 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 that his friends got the same message, 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.
“Readers will undoubtedly be reminded of the kids of Stand by Me and even IT…[the] first-person narration alternates between past and present, taking full advantage of chapter-ending cliffhangers. A swift, cleverly plotted debut novel that ably captures the insular, slightly sinister feel of a small village. Children of the 1980s will enjoy the nostalgia.”—Kirkus
“I haven’t had a sleepless night due to a book for a long time. The Chalk Man changed that.” —Fiona Barton, New York Times bestselling author of The Widow
I love thrillers, and The Chalk Man by debut author C.J. Tudor hit all the right notes for me. I thoroughly enjoyed following Eddie, his friends, and their parents back and forth from 1986 to 2016. This thriller has comedic hits, dark humor, characters who are mostly shades of gray, and a protagonist that is far from perfect. I really enjoyed reading about how 12-year-old Eddie and his 42-year-old self see the world so differently. After witnessing so many tragedies as a youth, the now alcoholic seems to barely be holding it together most of the time, and that can be a big problem since he’s a teacher at his old school.
The Chalk Man starts with young Eddie and his friends discovering a dismembered body in the woods. Flashing back and forth between 1986 and 2016, a picture is painted of what Eddie and his friends go through after the discovery, and how it still affects all of them in the present day. As kids, the four boys and one girl would leave each other stick figure drawings in chalk so they would know where to meet up, and who was writing the message since they all had different colors. But when these same stick figures start to appear along with cryptic letters to each of them as adults, Ed is thrown back into the past–the times that he chooses to block out with booze and possible dementia that could run in the family. And then one of their group dies mysteriously, and the remaining members slowly come together to figure out who might be targeting them.
The characters in The Chalk Man are very unique, three dimensional, and mostly likable–and very understandable as you got to know them better through the flashbacks. All of them didn’t have the greatest upbringing, and their twisted family stories were just as gripping as the main mystery of who murdered that girl 30 years ago. Eddie with his fledgling author father and women’s clinic doctor mother. Fat Gav was the wealthiest due to his family running their own pub, Metal Mickey had a very abusive brother that didn’t leave Ed alone, Hoppo’s mother was a cleaning lady who worked all the time to make ends me, and Nicky’s father was the local reverend that has a radical agenda and a bunch of smitten follows to do his bidding. Add in an albino teacher that the kids nickname “The Chalk Man” and a tragic carnival accident that leaves a pretty teenager disfigured, and the cast of mysterious characters take you on one hell of a ride that’s steeped in secrets and tragedy.
I give The Chalkman a five out of five. The drama between Ed’s parents and the reverend was tense, and the way that Ed handles all of the gruesome things he’s witnessed in his childhood–as well as adulthood– is quite appropriate. C.J. Tudor’s writing is steeped in enough description and tension that I felt transported to the easy going 1980s in England, and I felt like I was right there going through every single part of the story with Ed. The way the author went back and forth in time periods was really smooth and each chapter flowed into the next with ease. And the ending did not disappoint with a very big surprise that answers a lot of questions. I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves suspense, thrillers, small town family dramas, and mysteries that are shrouded in danger.
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About C.J. Tudor
C. J. TUDOR lives in Nottingham, England, with her partner and three-year-old daughter. Over the years she has worked as a copywriter, television presenter, voice-over, and dog walker. She is now thrilled to be able to write full-time, and doesn’t miss chasing wet dogs through muddy fields all that much. The Chalk Man is her first novel.
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