The Chalk Man
By C.J. Tudor
Crown Publishing Group (NY)
Publication Date : January 8, 2018
Synopsis From Publisher:
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.
Have you ever read a book and by the second page thought “Oh boy, this is going to be good.”? Well I did, and it is called The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor. By the tenth page I was hooked, I did not want the book to leave my hands. With a hint of horror, a dash of creepy, and tons of suspense, The Chalk Man has now set a new bar for my future reads.
In 1986 Eddie Adams is 12 and doing the normal things 12 year olds do; riding his bike through his hometown of Anderbury; hanging out with his friends, and looking for fun. To communicate with his friends in secret they develop their own code using stick figures drawn in chalk. One day the chalk figures lead them to a gruesome discovery. 30 years later Eddie assumes the events of that day are far behind him. Someone then begins to taunt Eddie and his friends with the chalks figures from their childhood code. The appearance of the chalk figures 30 years later forces Eddie to go back to the day he and his friends made that terrible discovery. He must also face the other traumatic events from his adolescence that have formed the person he has become.
The story is told using alternating time lines, switching between 1986 and 2016. In 1986 Eddie is 12, in 2016 he is 42. Although I am a 90’s kid, I recognized and remembered some of the staples of Eddie’s life in 1986 - tapes, fanny packs, Woolworths. These references allowed me to really imagine myself in Eddie’s shoes. I immediately felt a kinship with him and his friends.
After reading this novel, I found myself in the same situation I was in after reading House of Spines by Michael J Malone. There are so many things I love about this book that I will have to narrow it down to the top three elements I found most awesome.
Eddie has an endless list of regrets, things he should have said, things he should have done. I found it interesting that he seems to be comfortable with these regrets. When a moment to speak up or stand up passes him by, he does nothing to recapture the moment. He simply accepts that he has missed an opportunity. “The moment is gone, falling down the great abyss to join all the other lost moments; the should-haves and the could-haves and if-onlys that comprise the big black hole at the heart of my life. “ This is a quality that Eddie carries from childhood into adulthood. This aspect frustrated me yet made him more likeable. He never tries to force anything to happen or anyone to accept him. Eddie has a take me or leave attitude, which I love.
Every small town needs a ‘boogie man’ and they find it in Mr. Halloran. He is an outsider and does not look like everyone else. Though most in town stay clear of him, Eddie gravitates to him. I think Eddie feels like an outsider to some level and recognizes this in Mr. Halloran. The dialogue and interactions between him and Eddie make up some of my favorite parts of the book. Halloran is wise, insightful and clever. His status as an outsider allows him to see what is hidden amongst “insiders”. When Eddie finds himself in difficult situation, I found myself wishing I could tell Eddie “go find Mr. Halloran, see what he thinks.”
I recently attended Wordstock, a literary festival in Portland OR. I sat in on a panel with 3 authors discussing writing techniques. A question was posed to the authors asking if it was difficult writing from the point of view of a child. All of the authors agreed that writing from a child’s perspective was fairly easy; a child does not have to have all the answers. Tudor proves this to be true. Tudor’s ability to switch between a teenage Eddie and a 42 year old Eddie is nothing short of impressive. Not so much because Eddie does not have all the answers as a child- but because as an adult he does not have the answers either. From childhood to adulthood, Eddie really did not change. Tudor is able to morph Eddie’s traits as a teenager into his adult personality.
There are so many interesting characters and stories in this novel and I enjoyed each and every one. Each character had a story that was important and relevant to Eddie’s evolution from child to adult. The Chalk Man is a haunting, suspenseful, and eerie tale of childhood games with adult consequences.
**Thanks to Crown Publishing Group for my review copy.**
Murder and Moore Rating:
5 out of 5 Stars