In 1986, Eddie and his friends are just kids on the verge of adolescence. They spend their days biking around their sleepy 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.
I’ll start by saying that The Chalk Man is a good book and written very well. Yet, I’m still struggling to decide how much I enjoyed it. The fact of the matter is, this is a really uncomfortable book! I haven’t been this uncomfortable since reading Hater by David Moody.
I am a fan of horror fiction. I’ve read books with unbelievably disturbing content and imagery. That said, The Chalk Man was full of things that made me cringe and quite frankly (to my surprise) scared me quite a bit!
I think a contributing factor is the child narrator. Half of this book is written from the perspective of a 12-year-old boy. I love young narrators in horror because they seem to nudge at a reader’s inner child and say, “Hey, remember what it was like to be afraid of this?” Those irrational fears of youth bubble back to the surface and the dark seems darker and every noise seems more out of place.
I have to applaud CJ Tudor, who wrote The Chalk Man so well that I was sure the author was a man. We see through the eyes of the Protagonist’s 12-year-old self and 42-year-old self and I never doubted the character. Eddie was so real and flawed and three dimensional that I could have easily been convinced his part in the novel was autobiographical.
Lastly, there are books that you desperately try to figure out. You know a twist is coming and as readers, we approach those books like a challenge. If we figure out the plot twist before it is revealed, we win. On the other hand, there are books that just need to happen. Books that are so engrossing and emotionally driven, to try and outsmart them would be a shame. The Chalk Man is an example of the latter.
If you love a good mystery that unsettles you as much as it intrigues you, The Chalk Man needs to be sitting on your shelf.