Crown Publishing Group
January 09, 2018
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In 1986, Eddie and his friends are just kids on the verge of adolescence. They spend their days biking around their sleepy 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.
According to the author's biography on Goodreads, C.J. Tudor's The Chalk Man, "was inspired by a tub of chalks a friend bought for her daughter’s second birthday.: That has to be the best and most unexpected way for this story to have begun.
The Chalk Man is creepy and unnerving and mysterious and startling, an all-together great read. That the 1986 portions of the novel revolve around a twelve-year-old boy, his group of friends and their lives is fantastic. Not only does the author do a fantastic job really inhabiting the time and the characters, but the boys, their age, the year, and everything happening to them make them the perfect ones for what happens - and what they do.
The current parts of the story, set in 2016, are surprising for their own reasons. Readers know some of the outcome before really knowing what it was that led to it. It causes you to second guess characters and their actions - and really increases the tension and need to know what all happened. Most surprising of all, though, is probably where and how Eddie and his friends are, thirty years later. It is not what I would have expected if presented with only the 1986 story, but it all ends up making sense.
The writing was superb, as well. Not only were things revealed at just the right time, in just the right way, but little clues were slipped in, often going unnoticed and there were more than a few false leads, too. The actual writing, the phrasing, the metaphors, emotions, etc was really, really good.
There were more twists, turns, curves and speed bumps on the path to the end of this book than I anticipated. Everyone had their secrets - from their family, from their friends, from the town, even from themselves. The Chalk Man really illustrates just how weird, twisted, hypocritical, confused, misguided or downright dangerous seemingly nice, normal, upstanding people can be beneath what they let everyone see.
This story keeps readers guessing and continues to startle - and, often, shock - with its revelations. Some are things you want to have found out while others you may wish not to know. As one fo the characters says,"Sometimes . . . it's better not to know all the answers."
Well that and, "Secrets are like arseholes. We all have them. It's just that some are dirtier than others."
I hope there will be much more from author C.J. Tudor in the future.
digital review copy received from publisher, via NetGalley