Every kid’s dream is to find something cool in the woods. They just never expect it to be the dismembered pieces of a young girl. For the gang in CJ Tudors The Chalk Man, this is exactly what happened.
In the small town of Anderbury England, the narrator Eddie and his group of friends, Fat Gav, Hoppo, Metal Mickey and Nicky, go through a tale of loss and murder spanning decades. In 1986 this group of misfits spends their time trying to be children, but constantly seem to get caught in the net of misfortune. From the murders and surprising deaths of several people in town to accidents going a bit too far, the book suggests little chalk men are to blame for Ed and his friends stumbling upon things they probably shouldn’t have.
In 2016, Ed at age 42, is now an English teacher in the same town he grew up in. Even after putting the past behind him, the murders come back to haunt him in the same way they did as a child. In the form of a small chalk man, and it’s not only him but all of his old friends too.
The Chalk Man is a rollercoaster ride that even with its twists and turns, can sometimes stop a bit short. For example, the books method of switching from the perspective of 12-year-old Ed to 42-year-old Ed is clever. The application of these time jumps between chapters helps to keep the suspense up, leaving most of the 1986 chapters on large cliffhangers to keep the reader guessing.
The subtle inspiration taken from Stephen King’s book It for Ed’s group of friends is reminiscent. The kids are outcasts having to deal with crazy bullies just like the Losers Club did. Tudor made them all feel original except for Nicky, a girl with bright red hair who has issues with her single father, a mirror image of Beverly from It.
The characters are well made, Tudor giving them flaws and quirks to show that they are still very much human. Even with this depth, there wasn’t much development seen in any of the characters except Ed. This makes sense with his position as he’s the narrator and even with only his perspective, the reader can understand the other characters motivations fairly well.
The use of an inanimate object, the chalk men, to continue the plot is also clever, personifying the drawings as a force pulling the characters together. These drawings are one of the things that keep the reader guessing who the murderer could be till the end of the novel, popping up throughout the story both through word of mouth and in physical form.
The first half of the book, in my opinion, is better than the end, setting up the characters and the main mystery before dropping off into the improbable pool. The ending is slightly rushed and the twists becoming less shocking and more outlandish. That’s not to say that the ending isn’t at all good. It definitely is a surprise and wraps up all the unanswered questions, but is also for some people, not the answers they wanted.
In my opinion, CJ Tudors The Chalk Man is a book the has a subtle mystery woven into it, making it a solid 4/5 stars. It’s not like the intense murder mysteries most people expect to read; No running around and looking for clues or being chased down by the killer. It is a novel that for some, is a specific taste of the genre. Overall, it’s a good read but isn’t high up on my list of recommended mystery novels.