by C.J. Tudor
(3.85 stars – Goodreads rating)
Published January 9, 2018, by Crown Publishing Group (NY)
Genre: Thriller / Mystery
Page Count: 280
History itself is only ever a story, told by the ones who survive it.
Last night I had a bad dream. Yes, even adults have them at times. It left me dazed and wary – like my space had been invaded. Like I wasn’t quite safe. It was still early, around 5:30 AM, so it was quiet and dark and I just lay still for several more minutes trying to shake that ominous feeling the dream had left with me.
We’re used to them – the scary bedtime stories of boogeymen and monsters under the bed. As you grow, you become less afraid. Or, at least, that’s supposed to be the case. Right? I mean, when you’re little, vampires and goblins could easily ruin your night; but now Hollywood has made them glittery and fluffy and no longer so scary. But what if your childhood nightmares don’t quite go away?
That was the premise (sort of) for The Chalk Man by CJ Tudor. Eddie and his friends are just average American pre-teen boys riding bikes, building forts, and avoiding bullies. On the advice of an enigmatic teacher who was new in town, they began leaving codes in the form of little stick figures drawn on one another’s driveways in sidewalk chalk. The chalk men were messages to each other: meet me in the park, go to the playground, etc. These were the games of children before the events that corrupted their fun and took them – quite literally – down a horrifying path.
…I understood how things can change in an instant. All the stuff we take for granted can just be ripped away.
C.J. Tudor takes us on a thrilling ride, deftly transitioning through Eddie’s past and present to tell the secrets of his youth that resulted in one dead girl, accidents and incidents, and one well-planted accusation that would change Eddie’s future forever. We walk with him through every frightening flashback and feel his present paranoia seep through the pages as the chalk outline begin to reveal the dark story that has been living in Eddie’s subconscious for all this time.
A very well-told, well-paced, and thrilling story, The Chalk Man left me off-kilter and questioning everything at every chapter. Nothing was quite what it seemed to be. It is a great whodunit. Anytime I read a book and I waffle three or more times over who I think the ultimate antagonist is, I consider that a triumph.
This book carries with it that same feeling that I had this morning after my bad dream – that something was not-quite-right. Like the universe had tilted slightly and let something bad come in. That, even at the end of the book when “the lights are on” (so to speak), you still get that inkling at the back of your neck that something is still amiss. So, children, hold your teddy bears tight and always remember to watch for the chalk men. They will point the way.
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.
While writing the Chalk Man she ran a dog-walking business, walking over twenty dogs a week as well as looking after her little girl.
She’s been writing since she was a child but only knuckled down to it properly in her thirties. Her English teacher once told her that if she ‘did not become Prime Minister or a best-selling author’ he would be ‘very disappointed.’
(Bio courtesy of Goodreads)