Monday, 18 December 2017

The Chalk Man by CJ Tudor

The Chalk Man
By CJ Tudor
Published by Penguin (11 January 2018)
I received an Advance Reader Copy from the publisher

Publisher's description
None of us ever agreed on the exact beginning. 
Was it when we started drawing the chalk figures, or when they started to appear on their own? 
Was it the terrible accident? 
Or when they found the first body?

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.

My verdict
The Chalk Man is a chilling murder mystery and an outstanding debut.

This twisty crime novel was really creepy and tense, in terms of both setting and premise. Mysterious notes lead narrator Eddie to think back to his adolescent years when he and his friends used little chalk men figures as their secret code and then discovered a dismembered body. The narration switches seamlessly between Eddie on the cusp of adolescence and Eddie as an adult in the present day.

The Chalk Man reads like a timeless 'old school' classic with an '80s vibe, yet the hint of horror and supernatural flavour give it a definite contemporary feel. I loved the '80s cultural references - I would be a similar age to Eddie and his friends if they were real (they felt it), so the nostalgia certainly took me back several decades. The writing was both atmospheric and vivid, getting right under my skin, and the dialogue was filled with dark humour.

The Chalk Man was a book that I couldn't put down easily and one that I really enjoyed, right until the surprising and somewhat disturbing ending. Now I don't think I'll ever view a chalk man hastily scribbled on a pavement in quite the same way again.

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