The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor

The Chalk Man

The Chalk Man
by C.J. Tudor


346 Pages

Published by Penguin (9th January 2018)

Purchase from | Amazon AU | Amazon US | Amazon UK | Booktopia | Fishpond AU* | Book Depository | Dymocks | QBD |

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My rating: ⭐ ⭐

In 1986, Eddie and his friends are on the cusp of adolescence, they spend their summer in the best way they know how, getting into all kinds of things together. Some things are good, some things are not good, but the highlight was communicating through little chalk men stick figurines around town. Each member of Eddie’s group had their own colour, so each person knew who was writing the message, and when the chalk men lead the group of friends to a dismembered body, they can’t figure out who sent the message because none of them use white.
Fast forward thirty years and Eddie is an adult, going about the monotonous dealings of day to day life. Then he gets a letter in the mail containing a chalk man, it soon becomes apparent that all of the members of their little group got the same letter. Thinking nothing of it, they put it to the back of their minds, then one of them turns up dead. Eddie now realises that in order to save all their lives, he must uncover the truth of what happened that summer of 1986. His life depends on it.

So I was super intrigued by the premise of this story. It sounded like a great mystery wrapped up with something that seems so innocent, a chalk man, yet in this setting it foretold pain and devastation. So I was super keen to get into it. However, what I found left me wanting more, and felt a bit lackluster.

The story is told through alternating timelines, the first being 1986 when Eddie and his friends are around the age of twelve. It’s summer and they’re having the time of their lives. But things start to slowly go down hill and the kids are left trying to navigate the road of becoming teenagers, as well as everything else that is bombarding them. You have Ed’s mother who works at a women’s health clinic dealing with protestors, one of which is the father of one of the group’s members. You have bullies, you have friendship dynamics changing, and you have death. So it’s a lot. The other timeline is 2016 when Ed is in his 40s, he’s a teacher and he lives in his old family home with a border that is roughly half his age. He still sees two of the group, but the other two he hasn’t heard anything from in a long time. Until Mickey rocks up with a proposition and the claim that he knows what REALLY happened that summer. I felt that the alternating time lines worked well for the story as it gave us a look at the characters from two points of view. We got to see the key events that shaped them into the adults that we meet, and I feel like the story did a great job of illustrating just how serious things can be when you’re a kid. Most adults think that kids problems don’t exist, but as we all remember, the smallest things as a child can seem like the biggest mountain in the world when you’re small. So I found this to be an awesome aspect of the story.

The story itself follows the characters, as said above, through the two different time lines. The book does open on an incident, but we’re virtually left hanging for a big portion of the story. We know that something has happened, but we don’t know who it is or what has lead to it. I believe that this was a strategy to keep the reader engaged because I know that was my driving force. I just wanted to know the full picture of that opening scene, but it took so long to get there. This incident is the driving force behind the ‘present’ story line as it has come back to haunt the characters who were children at the time of the gruesome discovery. We’re lead through the summer when the boys discovered it, and we’re lead through the adulthood while they’re still trying to work out who really did it. I just found that story felt like it was spending the whole time building up into this giant thing, and didn’t quite tie everything up when we did get to the conclusion. I had a feeling of who really was responsible for the main event when we first meet them in the present timeline, so it wasn’t a huge shock when it turned out that this person was responsible. And when I think about the book now, there were things that I felt we didn’t really get answers to? For instance, the attack in the church, unless I missed something, I don’t think we actually got an answer to this one. I think it was left alluded to, but never confirmed. It felt like the author suddenly realised they were running out of air time and had to quickly try and tie up all the loose ends, which was a bit disappointing. Also, I thought the story would be creepier than it was. I was expecting something more than what I got and yeah, it just left me feeling a bit meh about the whole thing. Tudor did a great job of writing an oppressive atmosphere, and I feel like the story had the feeling of Stand by Me in the child timeline, but other than that, it just left me wanting more.

The characters were okay, as children I feel like they had more personality than adults. Two of the group we don’t see too much of, even though they do seem to catch up quite frequently, just not during this story. Ed’s adult character was incredibly flat and boring to me, and I feel like he was just floating through the story without really impacting it much. I did find one of his personality quirks interesting and the ending left me with more questions than what I went into the book with. So while I feel like THAT part of the ending was a little bit of a surprise, everything was left to the readers interpretation which, for me, just didn’t really work. It had me closing the back cover not feeling satisfied at all with the read or the shock at the end. I can’t even really compliment that shock because it didn’t lead anywhere and we were just left going “Oh, okay, so that’s where that went.”

All in all, I was expecting so much from this book, that maybe I let myself down because of that reason. I wanted scary, I wanted creepy, but instead I got what felt like wish’s version of IT without the monsters. I feel like this had so much potential and it just really didn’t work for me. If you like your mystery with a teeny bit of gruesomeness give this one a go. You might like it more than what I did!

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