The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor
Wow - what a fabulously well written book! I can't believe this is a debut novel, it's so slick and accomplished, with a way with words which makes the story slide through your mind like treacle. Move over Stephen King, there's a new kid on the block, she's English and I love her mind.
Being a child of the 80's shows in her writing.
Gliding effortlessly back and forth in time spanning an era of 30 years we follow the life of Eddie and his little gang of mates, fat Gav, Metal Mickey, Hoppo and Nicky when they are young adolescents and in the present time when Ed has grown into a solitary 43 year old who has been shaped by events this fateful year when he was a 13 year old. That summer of 1986 there is a lot going on, there is a terrible accident, a dismembered body, a new teacher, friendship, bullying, parents behaving unpredictably, as parents often do, and a game the lads play with a bucket of coloured chalks sending messages via chalk men to each other which is at the very heart of the terrifying tale which is The Chalk Man.
Between the fun of the fair, cycle rides through the woods and games at the playground a chilling darkness spreads its talons and scary things, that will make your skin crawl, occur. It's wonderfully terrifying, achingly nostalgic and a thoroughly, jaw-droppingly good, read, peppered with tricksy twists to make you gasp.
I had a reading slump in the latter part of 2017 but this (and the wonderful Three Things About Elsie by Joanna Cannon) have completely renewed my faith in my ability to be totally absorbed in a book, in fact, although a very different kind of story, Chalk man reminded me a lot of The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by the same Joanna Cannon, both involving kids growing up in a 1980s they made me remember growing up in, even though I was fully grown by then!
I finished the Chalk man last night and I'm still reeling with awe and admiration. If you want something to send shivers up your spine - read it! It's dark, relentless, scary and nostalgic.
In 1986, Eddie and his friends are just kids on the verge of adolescence. They spend their days biking around their sleepy little 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 each other as messages only they can understand. But then a mysterious chalk man leads them right to a dismembered body, and nothing will ever be 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 his other friends got the same messages, 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