Tuesday, November 7, 2017
Book Review: "The Chalk Man" by C.J. Tudor
"Personally, I have found that it is much better to take your fears, lock them up in a nice, tightly shut box and shove them into the deepest, darkest corner of your mind."
In the summer of 1986, Eddie and his four best friendsHoppo, Fat Gav, Metal Mickey, and Nicky (even though she was a girl)were on the cusp of adolescence. They bike around, commit mischief, tease each other, and try to avoid Mickey's older brother and his bullying friends. It seems like a magical summerthey even leave coded messages in chalk for each other to spell out their plans or their whereabouts.
But the idyllic time seems to be ending, as the adults around them wind up in the midst of some trouble, and tragedies strike close to home. Then one day, a strange chalk man leads them to a dismembered body in the woods. Nothing is ever the same again.
Thirty years later, Ed is still living in his childhood home. He'd like to think that he's put the events of that summer behind him, but the fact is, he's never been able to settle down into a relationship, he still spends time with Gav and Hoppo, and he teaches at his old school. When he gets an anonymous letter with a chalk man in it, it dredges up those memories, as does the return of an old friend who had seemingly gone away. And when he finds out that all of his friends received a similar letter, he realizes that perhaps not everything was tied up as neatly as they thought all those years ago.
Are there real answers to be found, and if so, what good would it do to find them? Will solving the mystery put everyone's demons to rest and allow them to get on with their lives, or will it put them in danger? Can we ever recapture our childhood innocence after it has been shattered?
The Chalk Man hooked me from the very first page and didn't let go. It evoked a little bit of the nostalgic feelings of Stand By Me, with a little more mystery and violence, and a lot of heart. There's a lot going on in this book, lots of twists and turns to keep you guessing and lots of interesting characters to fascinate and (perhaps) distract you. Tudor is a terrific storyteller, and it's so hard to believe this is her debut novel, because the writing is so self-assured.
Like with any thriller, I always suspect everyone, and while I was a little surprised at certain twists, and I didn't love every choice Tudor made, I thought this was a great read, one that made me wish I had just a few minutes more to linger over the book every time I picked it up. Believe me, this is one you'll want to read before everyone else starts talking about it.
NetGalley and Crown Publishing provided me an advance copy of the book in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks for making this available!
Labels: 1980s, book reviews, family, fiction, friendship, guilt, murder, mystery/thriller, nostalgia, religion, scandal, secrets
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