Review: The Chalk Man by CJ Tudor

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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 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

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37 thoughts on “Review: The Chalk Man by CJ Tudor

  1. Renee (Itsbooktalk) says:

    Great review Annie! You’re right, the 80s nostalgia and her ability to write atmospherically were a couple of the strongest parts of the story I thought. As we talked about, overall I wasn’t crazy about this one from the get go and then the ending…nope

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  2. Susie | Novel Visits says:

    I’ve been very curious about The Chalk Man. I was waiting to hear from a blogger I really trust, so thanks. Between you and Renee, I think I’ll skip this one.

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  3. Diana says:

    I have been seeing this one everyone but was still undecided about it which I still am lol.Glad that you enjoyed it though despite the few issues that you mentioned. Great review!

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  4. Inge | The Belgian Reviewer says:

    I still have no idea what it’s about with those comparisons 🙂 but I’m willing to find out and I like that it has a nostalgic vibe with references to the ’80s. It’s funny because the first reviews I read were raving so much about this one and now the opinions are much more divided. Still interested but maybe a bit lower on the wishlist now :-). I still want to read Seven Deaths most of all 🙂

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  5. Amanda @Cover2CoverMom says:

    I’ve been seeing this cover everywhere, so I knew it was only a matter of time before I saw it here 🙂 You can’t compare something to a Stephen King novel or the TV show Stranger Things and NOT have people reading it. Way to go marketing lol Anyways! It sounds like this was just a decent read for you. Sorry it didn’t knock your socks off & wasn’t more memorable 😦

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    • Annie says:

      Yeah, the expectations were too much this time. I liked the setting and context but the story wasn’t my favorite part! I wish I had found the book version of Stranger Things because that would be ❤

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  6. Stephanie says:

    I keep reading excellent reviews, some bad reviews, and some mixed reviews, so I’m wondering how I’ll like it, lol…I bought it the day it came out. The 80s vibe sounds intriguing since I’m an 80s kid, but now I’m curious about the ending! I used to be a terrible person when I was younger who read the last chapter to find out what happened…tempted to when I read this hahaha!

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