“You can feel it in the woods, in the school and in the playground, you can feel it in the houses and at the fairground. You can feel it in most places in the small town of Anderbury… the fear that something or someone is watching you.
It began back in 1986, at the fair, on the day of the accident. That was when twelve-year-old Eddie met Mr. Halloran – the Chalk Man.
He gave Eddie the idea for the drawings: a way to leave secret messages for his friends and it was fun, until the chalk men led them to a body.
Thirty years later, Ed believes the past is far behind him, until an envelope slips through the letterbox, it contains a stick of chalk, and a drawing of a figure.
Is history going to repeat itself?
Was it ever really over?
Will this game only end in the same way?”
The Chalk Man is told from the perspective of the book’s main character, Eddie. And he narrates two time periods; 1986 and 2016. Unfortunately for him, both of these time periods are drenched in mystery – who committed the first murder? Then the next?
I anticipated I’d like this book. However, it took effort to get somewhat invested in this story. Even then, I’d stress “invested” isn’t the usual engrossment I have when reading mysteries and thrillers. Firstly, I didn’t find myself invested in any of the characters. They weren’t immediately or instinctively likeable. I’d like to partly blame the alternating time jumps for this, as it didn’t allow me to develop a consistent thought on any of them. However, I would genuinely say the reader-characterisation-relationship was poor. I didn’t care if any of them dropped dead. But, at the same time, I’d say Tudor did achieve creating complex characters through mini arcs, that weaved into the overall plot. For instance, the actions of some characters, was highly believable, or shocking, due to Tudor’s building depictions of said characters, and it contributed to the feeling of horror.
I liked and loathed the alternating timeline. It was good to read the contrast between Eddie and his gang at twelves years old, and then who and where they were by forty-two years old. I did find this enjoyable, but only when the plot was at a sluggish place. The jumping timelines between chapters largely irritated me, especially when the past or present timeline ended in a cliffhanger, and I wanted to continue reading from that point. At first, I accepted this as a page-turning motivator, but by the latter part of the book, it simply became a nuisance. The plot of the novel was actually good and impressive, and well thought out, but the characters and timeline issues ruined it, for me.
There were, at certain points, when I felt rather uncomfortable with events in the novel. I’d describe The Chalk Man as a mild horror; there were chilling and distressing moments, but I didn’t find it graphic or gruesome.
Perhaps I was having a good day, but I predicted both twists. There were minor plot-surprise-twists, that only Hercule Poirot could have solved, in my opinion. But the two big twists/revelations, I saw coming a mile away. This always gives the book some brownie points, but just as quickly, snatches the reward away. It’s quite the paradox; wanting to predict the ending, but being disappointed when you do. I also had an issue with one part of the ending, and I can’t thoroughly comment on it, without potentially spoiling the book. In as little spoilers as possible; I just didn’t like it. It didn’t, for me, fit within the story or with the relevant character – it was intended to be a “jaw dropping” moment, I suspect. But I didn’t experience this, instead it was more of a “get awayyyy”, because I didn’t understand why Tudor felt this character would do such a thing.
The Chalk Man is without a doubt a chilling read. Some parts are dull and slow, but towards the end, the book picks up. Without the supernatural components, this book gave me serious Stephen King’s IT and Stranger Things vibes. It took me 4 days to read this book, and it was a fairly easy read.
I’ve rated the book 3 stars on goodreads. The sheer terror I felt at times, is what bumped The Chalk Man up to 3 stars, instead of 2. Sadly, a gripping and great last 100 pages, do not make up for the other 150 pages being sluggish and tedious. I also didn’t like the book’s structure because at certain parts, it just didn’t work, and really needed to be linear, which towards the end, Tudor did eventually adopt. The ending of the book is much better than the bulk of the book, as the story really came to life then.
Tudor is a talented story teller, I have no qualms with that, because the mystery and suspense of the book, is highly commendable. I simply feel that there are some things she could have improved, such as the reader’s engagement with characters. The concept of The Chalk Man was extremely exciting, and well thought out, but was executed in a manner that I didn’t personally find enjoyable.
The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor
Published 11th January 2018
Genre: Horror, Mystery