The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor
Published: January 2018
The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor is psychological suspense at its best!
First, let me thank NetGalley, the publisher Penguin Random House Canada, and of course the author, for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
WOW! This book had me from the first page. Although it seems to have incorporated a few of Stephen King’s ideas (sidewalk codes in chalk, the anticipation of seeing a dead body by a group of kids, even a Mr. Halloran) this book stands alone. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
In 1986, they were your normal gang of 12-year-olds, Eddie, Fat-Gav, Hoppo, Metal Mickey and Nicky. They all had parent issues, bully issues, normal kid issues, and a few extras. They played in the park, in the woods, rode their bikes all over town, got into spats, got over them. For Eddie, our narrator, everything changed the day of the fair. This was the day that the Waltzer ride flew apart, taking half of a girls face with it, and almost her whole leg. This is also the day he met Mr. Halloran, the new English teacher at school. Eddie and Mr. Halloran became heroes that day, when they saved the girls’ life. Mr. Halloran became something of a friend as well. He was the one who suggested the chalk game, which the group used to leave coded messages for each other around town. But apparently there is someone else using chalk too, and that message leads to a dead body.
In 2016 at the age of 42, Ed, now a teacher, lives in the house he grew up in, has a new lodger, and drinks more than he should. His world breaks open when he receives a chalk drawing in the mail. Then he receives a visit from one of his old gang, who is in town to get Ed’s help on a project. Mickey wants to re-visit the past. He says he knows who killed the girl in the woods, and wants to write a book about it. Ed is about to find out that the past can truly come back to haunt you, and what you think you knew was wrong.
CJ Tudor created a great bunch of characters. Each of the 12-year-olds came from different backgrounds, with different issues at home, and their actions echoed this. Their unique personalities added to the enjoyment of the tale. Their 42-year-old selves also showed reflections of their past. The characters of Eddie’s Mom and Dad were probably the best, and the most heart-felt. Tudor created Reverend Martin to be the biggest bully of all, and Mr. Halloran to be an enigma. All the characters were deep. Tudor tackled some big issues in this book, from Dementia, to abuse, to bullying, to violence, to abortion, to murder, along with the smaller but important issues of friends, love and loyalty. The author managed to alternate between the two years, incorporating the past with the present, without it feeling like two separate books. Overall, the book was a little creepy at times, but not scary. The plot was great, with many twists and turns, and the ending a bit of a surprise.
Well done CJ Tudor! For a debut novel, you nailed it!
Read: January 2018
Favorite Quotes from The Chalk Man: (Note that I found it hard to limit these)
“Yeah,” Hoppo said. “There’s an ambulance and police there with tape and all sorts of shit. Wanna come look?”
I’d like to say that, at the time, I thought their enthusiasm to see some poor dead kid was ghoulish and wrong. But I was twelve. Of course I wanted to look.”
However, even as a kid, I could sense the anger—the venom—of those protesters. Something about their eyes, the spittle that exploded from their mouths, the way they brandished their banners like weapons. They were chanting a lot of stuff about love but they seemed full of hate.
“Never assume. Question everything. Always look beyond the obvious.
We assume things because it’s easier, lazier. It stops us thinking too hard—usually about stuff that makes us feel uncomfortable. But not thinking can lead to misunderstandings and, in some cases, tragedies.”
About the Author: C. J. Tudor was born in Salisbury and grew up in Nottingham, where she still lives with her partner and young daughter. While writing the Chalk Man she ran a dog-walking business, walking over twenty dogs a week as well as looking after her little girl. Everyone calls her Caz (I know I want to).