The Chalk Man by C. J. Tudor reviewed

The Chalk Man
C. J. Tudor
Penguin UK
January 11, 2018

Looking back, it all started on the day of the fair and the terrible accident. When twelve-year-old Eddie first met the Chalk Man.

It was the Chalk Man who gave Eddie the idea for the drawings: a way to leave secret messages between his group of friends.

And it was fun, to start with, until the figures led them to the body of a young girl.

That was thirty years ago and Ed thought the past was behind him. Then he receives a letter containing just two things: a piece of chalk, and a drawing of a stick figure. As history begins to repeat itself, Ed realises the game was never over . . .

Everyone has secrets.

Everyone is guilty of something.

And children are not always so innocent.

There is a wonderfully dark start to the Chalk Man by C J Tudor with a body in the woods. Then we go back to Eddie as a 12 year old which was “when it all started” at the fair in 1986. Eddie has four friends (of sorts) in a gang. He also meets “the chalk man”. Almost immediately I found myself fully engaged with the young Eddie and his gang or rather Fat Gav’s gang. Thirty years on and Ed finds that earlier events may have some links and echoes in 2016.

The story is seen through Eddie or Ed’s eyes with time shifts between 1986 and 2016. Using the 2016 perspective means that intervening events can also be viewed. The gang starts to fragment for various reasons around 1986 though Ed does stay in touch with a couple of them. Where are the other two and what have they been doing in the years in between?

I really did find all the characters rich. Even some of the minor ones were quite clear in my mind. The two voices of the main character as Eddie and Ed both seemed convincing and appropriate to me. There is a gradual reveal of small foibles and large crimes. The little crumbs of clues dropped along the way are obviously “dropped”. However far from making things simpler they simply ratchet up the tension and make you stop and think… “I wonder if that means…”. As Ed says this is a story about “unforeseen consequences” in many ways.

I really enjoyed this as a read. I settled into the story and the characters very quickly and it did feel as though they were people I knew or like people I’ve known. That is very good writing. It’s one of the best books I’ve read in quite some time of its genre and I’d love to read another book by this author.

Note – I received an advance digital copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair review