The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor
Published by Crown Publishing Group on January 9, 2018 (expected)
Genre(s): fiction, mystery, suspense
Format & Length: paperback, 280
Find on Goodreads
The must-read thriller of 2018, this riveting and relentlessly compelling psychological suspense debut 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.
Secrets. Lies. Half truths. Untold truths. The Chalk Man is chock full of people not communicating well, if at all. Which made for an intensely believable read.
There must be something in the air; I’ve read a handful of debut novels recently that were so well done they surprised me, and the trend continues with C.J. Tudor and The Chalk Man. The hype surrounding this book is well deserved. The writing is engaging, with plenty of life truths and relevant topics that round out an already interesting story.
Narrated by Eddie, the story unfolds from both the present day and his childhood in the eighties to uncover the answer to a mystery that has been hanging over him for decades. I enjoyed peeling back the layers from both timelines along with the characters. And Tudor nailed the narratives. She not only made Eddie’s voice distinct and interesting, but also managed to make the child and adult sound like the same person at different ages.
The atmosphere in this book was eerie without being overtly scary. I’ve seen this categorized as a thriller but personally would place this solidly in the suspense genre instead. While I was certainly invested in the story and its outcome, there wasn’t a lot of action and it didn’t have the fast pace I would expect from a thriller. What it did have was a lot of uncertainty and questions. And although the end wrapped it all up, it wasn’t exactly neat. It was actually a bit messy, which helped make this even more realistic in my eyes.
It’s funny how the timing of things tends to work out. If I had to describe The Chalk Man in a sentence, I would say it’s the story of a boy who grew up in the eighties and, along with his group of friends, finds something creepy begin to happen in his hometown and tries to piece together the puzzle of what’s going on. Coincidentally, my husband and I just finished marathoning season one of Stranger Things, which I would describe with the exact same sentence. Is this a trend, or just a fluke of timing? One can only read so many books and watch so many TV shows and movies, so I’m actually not certain, but it did strike me.
Ultimately, I found The Chalk Man to be intriguing and thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Recommended to anyone looking for a solid tale of psychological suspense.
*Thanks to Crown Publishing for providing an arc of this edition in exchange for an honest review.