The Chalk Man is coming . . .
‘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?’
“A short distance away, a pale hand stretched out from its own small shroud of leaves as if searching for help, or reassurance that it was not alone. None was to be found.”
OH MY GOD, SO MUCH TO SAY!
First of all: yes, The Chalk Man is creepy and mysterious and suspenseful, but at various times it is also warm and funny and shocking and disturbing and heartbreaking. It is much more than an unnerving whodunit: it is more of a WHAT EXACTLY IS GOING ON HERE-it. 🙂
“We think we want answers. But what we really want are the right answers. Human nature. We ask questions that we hope will give us the truth we want to hear. The problem is, you can’t choose your truths. Truth has a habit of simply being the truth. The only real choice you have is whether to believe it or not.”
Second of all: I LOVE a dual timeline narrative, so hearing Eddie’s story from both 1986 and 2016, building up what has happened, worked really well for me and I was immediately hooked. The chapters pretty much alternate between the two time periods and almost all of them end with a twist or a cliffhanger, each of which was so good that I wanted to carry on reading THAT timeline, right now, there and then, not go back or forth in time just yet; and that happened nearly every time.
“The leaves curled and crinkled and eventually lost their fragile grip on the trees. A feeling of withering and dying seemed to pervade everything. Nothing felt fresh or colourful or innocent any more. Like the whole town had been temporarily suspended in its own dusty time capsule.”
C.J. Tudor has a brilliant writing style. It’s beautiful and compelling but also really natural and unpretentious, and so insightful – it was like she’d crawled right inside my head and knew exactly how I think! The story is complex and masterfully plotted – there was so much going on, but it was so cleverly done, and you felt like you were right there every step of the way with the characters.
“The blue had been scoured from the sky by Brillo-grey clouds, now starting to drip rain on to the coffin and the mourners.”
The descriptions throughout are so vivid and evocative and I could see it all so clearly in my mind; sometimes disgustingly so (Sean Cooper, anyone?), and sometimes gloriously so: long lazy summer days, the sun beating down on party games or drizzle in the autumn gloom, almost-teenage feelings, hopes and fears, joy and sorrow. Even the more gruesome parts are irresistibly described. That said, it is also really funny in places.
“A badge pinned to his lapel informs me that his name is ‘Duds’, which seems less of a name and more an admission of a chronic fault.”
C.J. Tudor really brings 1980s childhood to life – the dreams, the tastes, the smells, the insults! Even though I’m about five years younger than the main characters, so much of their story felt familiar to me: bike rides in the woods, hanging around the local playground, the ups and downs, the secrets and frustrations, the friendship break-ups and make-ups.
“Mum and dad exchanged ‘adult’ looks, the sort that adults seem to think, because you’re a kid, somehow, magically, you can’t see.”
In case you haven’t guessed, I absolutely loved this book, I cannot recommend it enough, and I suspect it will stay with me for a long time yet. It is first and foremost a mystery but there is so much more to it – it is best not to know too much about what to expect and to just jump in and enjoy.
Thank you so much to C.J. Tudor, NetGalley and Penguin UK – Michael Joseph for the ARC of The Chalk Man.