Review of 'The Chalk Man'

The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor

the_chalk_man.jpg A promising novel debut from Tudor containing a mystery that will keep you guessing until the final pages.

Eddie Adams is a teacher living in his childhood home in Anderbury, a quiet town that has been rocked in the past by a series of tragedies. he shares the house with the quirky Chloe so far removed from his own personality the only thing you could say they have in common is the shared address. As a child he spent most of his time with his friends: Fat Gov, Metal Mickey, Hoppo and Nicky. Early in his life Eddie witnessed a fairground accident that resulted in the hideous disfigurement of a young woman and left him emotionally numb. The group form an unusual bond and using a secret language expressed in chalk pictograms to communicate – different colours used for each of the group. The tensions in 1986 are at an all time high with the abortion clinic run by Eddie's mother attracts protestors headed up by the local vicar and the arrival of a mysterious man, a teacher they nickname “The Chalk Man”. It all comes to a head when four of the friends come across a hideously mutilated body of a young woman in the woods. As an adult Eddie seeks to unravel the truth of this murder and yet other mysterious deaths…

A complex mystery with multiple facets and characters that are never entirely what they seem. There is incredible personal violence throughout beginning right from the prologue which is at once horrific but at the same time intriguing. It is little wonder that Stephen King is quoted on the cover as saying “If you like my stuff, you'll like this”. “The Chalk Man” consists of not only the mystery of the death of the young woman in the woods but also of a horrific car accident, the drowning of a young man, and a bloody assault on a “pillar of society”. Keeping track of this all is a bit tricky so it is better if reading you read it pretty much all at once which is fine as it is a bit of a page-turner. The characters are very real if somewhat unrealistic: They seem to take the frequent violence in their village without too much of a fuss other than “I wonder what happened there?” It is of course exactly what is going on that keeps you reading with everything sliding into place only on the final few pages. Perhaps a bit too complex as the book is full of unusually convenient circumstances, quite unrealistic, however, setting this aside is a good read.

A bloody, complex first novel that little surprise won so much approval when released in 2018.

Rating: “Nearly perfect, but not quite”

Review Date: 2020-12-31

Genre: Crime/Mystery

Publisher: Penguin

Publication Date: 2018

ISBN: 9781405930956

Other reviewed books by C.J. Tudor: