The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor, 3.5 Stars

Last week at book club, I happened to mention that no one in my family had been sick yet this year. Kiss of death. That night, my 8-year-old woke up at 2:00 am with ear pain. The next day, I felt the headache and chills start to move in. Saturday and Sunday I barely got out of bed.

But I read 3 books on Sunday. Seriously, that’s a record for even me!

A bunch of books I wanted to read all came in at once at the library and I was wondering how I was going to get them all read. Guess what? Done, with a week to spare.

Now I’m caught up on my reading, but way behind on my reviews. I guess you just can’t win!

From the Publisher:

In 1986, Eddie and his friends are just kids on the verge of adolescence. They spend their days biking around their sleepy English village and looking for any taste of excitement they can get. The chalk men are their secret code: little chalk stick figures they leave for one another as messages only they can understand. But then a mysterious chalk man leads them right to a dismembered body, and nothing is ever the same.

In 2016, Eddie is fully grown and thinks he’s put his past behind him, but then he gets a letter in the mail containing a single chalk stick figure. When it turns out that his friends got the same message, they think it could be a prank–until one of them turns up dead. That’s when Eddie realizes that saving himself means finally figuring out what really happened all those years ago.

My Review:

The story opens in the 1980’s in a small town in England. The story focuses on a close-knot group of friends both in 1986 and then 30 years later. Eddie, Hoppo, Fat Gav and Metal Mickey spend their days the way most boys did back then, riding around on bikes, exploring the woods and making up secret games and codes that only they know about.

So, when someone starts stealing their main way of communicating –drawing chalk figures as messages–around town, the boys are confused and a bit scared. The crew definitely reminded me of the boys in Stand By Me and the parallels don’t stop with personality. No spoilers (it says it in the book description) but they do find a body and it does change everything.

One thing that struck me as I read is that none of the characters seemed to be fully functioning as normal adult males, but I suppose that could be par for the course of either growing up (and mostly staying) in a small town and/or the traumatic events from their childhood. Although it likely has more to do with the former.

It took me a little bit to get into the story but once I was there I definitely appreciated the way the story unfolded. It’s a nostalgic book and questions are answered, although more one at a time than all together. But I find that a lot of suspense books are good up until 20 pages to the end and then have a Scooby Doo type ending. I really loved  that this one did not. The Chalk Man is a very intentional and articulate novel. And the very end? Well, it’s the  cherry on top to a creepy tale well told.

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