Synopsis of the book from Goodreads.com:
“In 1986, Eddie and his friends are just kids on the verge of adolescence. They spend their days biking around their sleepy 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 one another as messages only they can understand. But then a mysterious chalk man leads them right to a dismembered body, and nothing is ever 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 that his friends got the same message, 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.”
I’ll be the first to admit that I love a good suspense/thriller on my TBR list. The synopsis’s always sound so daring….so interesting… I have a hard time saying no. However, I often have the hardest time reviewing these books because they’re entertaining, but not captivating.
“The Chalk Man” by CJ Tudor falls into this category, albeit in a better position than most suspense/thrillers. Did I keep coming back for more? Yes. Did I read the book in 3 days? Yes. Did I enjoy it? Yes. Will I get all flustered and excited when I talk about it, then gush to the person that they HAVE TO READ IT? No.
The Characters: It’s not hard to get me to fluster-gush about a book, but the characters and plot of “The Chalk Man” just didn’t quite do it for me. First of all, Eddie and his “friends” don’t seem to really like each other, and I’m not talking about the conflict between the characters. They all seem to truly resent each other. Eddie hates how overbearing Fat Gav is. Eddie and Fat Gav seem repulsed by Hoppo’s home life. Everyone hates Mickey. Nicky, the only girl, is moved to the peripheral of the story early on and never fully takes on a leading role. Her role in the story and in life is one of an outsider. Because of the underlying resentment, I have a hard time believing that these are the types of friends that would keep in touch into adulthood. They seem more inclined to be the type of friends that go their separate ways in high school, then reemerge as an afterthought on your Facebook Newsfeed as an adult.
What I liked: One thing I DID enjoy about this book was that it established several “possible” scenarios to the murders. It was anyone’s game there for a while– The author did a great job of setting up multiple characters as a plausible answer to the “WhoDunIt” component of the story. With that being said, I don’t think the reveal of the real murderer was particularly earth-shattering, although I did appreciate that the reader was led off the path enough for the reveal to contain genuine surprise. If I took the time to look back at all the clues given, however, I probably could have figured it out before the reveal.
What I didn’t like: I was really excited about how the author was “weaving” together all of these clues– the chalk figures, the murders, the letters, the illicit relationships (whether innocent or not-so-innocent), the events that SEEMED like they were going to play a big role (the book opens with a girl getting run over by a carnival ride, for crying out loud!). They were ALL going to come together and make for a beautiful, surprising ending, right? Wrong. While some events were “weaved” together, others were not explained. Then, the last chapter of the book tried to wrap up all of those random loose ends into a neat, little package that frankly, seemed a little lazy. It’s like the author said, “what should I do with this random story about a dog that I initially insinuated had something to do with the murders? Blame it on dementia. All done.” I would have LOVED for those bits and pieces to make it into the murder’s tale. It would have made the book so much more colorful.
Would I recommend this book? Yes, although probably not to bookish friends. I would recommend it to friends who want some “light” reading (as light as a horror book can be) and don’t necessarily care if it’s going to be nominated for any awards. I also think it could make a great screenplay. Overall, I thought it was very similar, although slightly creepier, than your average Stephen King novel.
Note: I got this book as a subscriber of Book of the Month Club. I am not affiliated with Book of the Month Club other than subscribing to their service. If you want to try out Book of the Month Club, use my referral link by clicking here so I can get a free book credit. Thank you!