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. 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.
The Chalk Man has been one of the most talked about books in the last few months. Everyone was reading it and writing about it. Some raved about it, others were a bit disappointed. It seemed to be quite a polemic book, but still, I couldn’t wait to dive into it because of the comparisons to IT, Stranger Things and Stand By Me (I’m a big fan of those three). So I finally sat down one morning and read it from beginning to end.
The Chalk Man was a truly addictive read for me. I didn’t think about anything else while I got to know about the kids and the chalk figures: I read it compulsively, trying to guess what had happened all those years ago. I liked the atmosphere, the 80s flashbacks and wanted to know what was going on in the present, too. I didn’t love the characters that much, but that was okay because I was really enjoying the story. Sometimes that happens.
However, when I got to the ending, I realized I didn’t feel as satisfied as I had hoped. I liked the book enough and thought it was well-written, it had great ideas and enjoyed some aspects that I can’t really mention now because of spoilers. But the main mystery ended up being a major disappointment. I usually love this kind of “tragic endings” but I didn’t care much about this one.
I liked CJ Tudor’s writing and the way she kept me guessing until the very end. It’s obvious that she loves the 80s and all that “retro nostalgia”, and I really appreciate that. This was a great debut novel, but I think the mystery lacked a bit of that “memorable” feeling I look for when reading this type of books. Also, Nicky’s character was kind of underused and I wanted to know more about her (despite her obvious similarities to IT’s Beverly).
Overall, I enjoyed The Chalk Man and would recommend it if you enjoy mysteries and coming of age stories. At the same time, I can’t really say it I will remember it forever.
Netgalley, Michael Joseph, 2018