I’m a bit behind everyone else but I’ve finally managed to read The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor. You may remember that I had a Q&A with C.J. before her appearance at First Monday Crime in February. I said then that I would buy the book there and get it signed. I kept to my word. Before I tell you the blurb and my thoughts, I just want to marvel over the cover of The Chalk Man. Aside from the strikingly simple but effective font and drawing of a hangman, the texture of the cover is amazing. It feels like a chalkboard, complete with smudges and smears. It’s very authentic.
We all have fears we hide from. But in the end they will find us . . .
None of us ever agreed on the exact beginning.
Was it when we started drawing the chalk figures, or when they started to appear on their own?
Was it the terrible accident?
Or when they found the first body?
Told in two time periods – 1986 and 2016 – our narrator is Eddie Adams. Well, Ed in 2016. He’s more grown up now. I can imagine that Eddie’s school report in 1986 might have read ‘easily distracted and prone to flights of fancy’. He and his gang of friends have a habit of getting into scrapes in the small town of Anderbury. But some scrapes are more serious than others and the gang becomes fractured in the process.
In 2016, Ed is still living in the family home. His father is dead and his mother has moved out. Life hasn’t been as kind as he would have liked but Ed gets by on his teacher’s salary and the rent money from his lodger, Chloe. Things are going OK until one of the old gang members reappears digging up the past. But there are too many secrets to discover and too many people who want to keep them hidden.
I loved having the two time periods and I think C.J. Tudor has captured the two voices perfectly. Although I’ve now read the novel, I’d love to listen to the audible version with Andrew Scott and Asa Butterfield. But the thing I liked best about the book was remembering the 80s and the sense of freedom that kids had back then. Riding off on bikes to the local playground or mucking about making dens in the woods. But for Eddie and his gang, they find more in the woods than expected.
There are plenty of twists and turns in the plot – some I guessed, some I didn’t. There’s a pervading sense of creepiness about the whole story but at the same time, very down-to-earth. I could imagine the children and their families – the BBQs in 1986 and then the slow and sad demise of parents in 2016. All stories have imagination but a strong anchor in reality provides authenticity. And I really felt that with The Chalk Man. The events could so easily have happened.
If this is the standard that C.J. Tudor has produced for her debut, then I eagerly look forward to her next novel.
You can buy The Chalk Man here.
You can read my Q&A with C.J. Tudor here.
About the author
C. J. Tudor was born in Salisbury and grew up in Nottingham, where she still lives with her partner and young daughter. Her love of writing, especially the dark and macabre, started young. When her peers were reading Judy Blume, she was devouring Stephen King and James Herbert.
Over the years she has had a variety of jobs, including trainee reporter, waitress, radio scriptwriter, shop assistant, voiceover artist, television presenter, copywriter and now author. The Chalk Man is her first novel.