I’ll be honest with you. I had no idea who CJ Tudor was. I didn’t know anything about this writer, but seeing this book at the bookstore certainly grabbed my attention. It was displayed so prominently, and was getting rave reviews in the UK press. I always love reading horror books and to know a new writer has the endorsement from Stephen King certainly set my hopes high.
I am sucker for book covers and The Chalk Man has a very eye catching cover, as well as the sides of the book is covered with the chalk man stick figures. Creepy stuff.
Let me get one thing out of the way though before I get into the book. The Chalk Man felt like it was highly infuenced by Stephen King’s Stand By Me and It. The Chalk Man is essentially a coming of age story about a group of kids who experience some horrible happening as children, and then return to their town as adults. If you can get this comparision out of your mind at the time of reading, then The Chalk Man makes for a brilliant read.
The book shifts between the 12 year old Eddie in 1986 and then the adult Eddie in 2006.
1986. Eddie and his small group of friends are tight knit. They protect each other from the bullies. They stand up for each other and are very loyal. They are so close that they draw little stick figures with chalk as a way to communicate with each other. They have their own secret codes, which adults can’t decipher. One day, it is these very chalk figures that leads them to the death of a child. There is a man, who is called the Chalk Man, who leads Eddie and his friends to the dead body.
2006. Eddie receives a letter, which is fine till he sees the drawing of the little stick figure. He knows he’s being called back to his hometown. Eddie’s friends have all received the same letter. Someone know something about their past. They all return, and one of their friends die. The mystery deepens as the remaining adults try to find answers.
Who is the Chalk Man? Why are there dead bodies? What does the Chalk Man about Eddie’s past? Can Eddie find some sort of resolution to his past?
Tudor writes really well. I was so glad to read a book like this that gave me feelings of being in the Stephen King’s universe, yet still manages to retain its own distinct voice. The characterization was top notch– Eddie is one such character who proves to be so unreliable, and he doesn’t give us enough information or clues as to what’s really happening. There are so many shades of grey and you don’t know whether to believe him or not.
Writing from a 12 year old perspective, Tudor has done a brilliant job. To capture that essence of childhood, growing up in a small quiet English town, is no easy task and I was totally convinced that these children could have been real people.
There are great themes that are explored in the book: friendships, loyalties, love, bullying, confronting our pasts, adjusting into adult life and so on. I also really liked the fact that the book didn’t have a detective and didn’t fall into the crime-thriller genre. The Chalk Man is a pure horror novel.
The best part though? The horror elements. I love a creepy story. I love not knowing what’s going to happen next. There are so many red herrings and plot twists in this book, that I just found myself turning the pages wanting to get to the end. I couldn’t have predicted the ending, and that to me is a mark of a great writer.
While CJ Tudor may not be Stephen King, she comes darn close to his level.