*I received an arc via the publisher in return for an honest review*
The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor
You can feel it in the woods, in the school and in the playground; you can feel it in the houses and at the fairground. You can feel it in most places in the small town of Anderbury . . . the fear that something or someone is watching you.
It began back in 1986, at the fair, on the day of the accident. That was when twelve-year-old Eddie met Mr Halloran – the Chalk Man.
He gave Eddie the idea for the drawings: a way to leave secret messages for his friends and it was fun, until the chalk men led them to a body.
Thirty years later, Ed believes the past is far behind him, until an envelope slips through the letterbox. It contains a stick of chalk, and a drawing of a figure.
Is history going to repeat itself?
Was it ever really over?
Will this game only end in the same way?
I have followed the hype for this novel via social media and I was very intrigued. The synopsis is rather vague, which I quite liked. It immediately draws your attention and you want to learn more. I thought this was going to be a standard crime fiction novel, but I was wrong. Not only was I wrong, but I was in for a real treat!
The chalk man grips hold of you and won’t let go!
I read the entire novel in one sitting, staying well up past my bed time and feeling increasingly freaked out at 2am.
There are parts of the novel that reminded me of IT.
The story of a bunch of childhood friends, into the modern day.
The story that haunts them and the secrets of their shared past!
The novel isn’t a horror novel and the chalk man isn’t pennywise. But it held this eerie feeling from 80 pages in and I couldn’t get the plot out of my head. There was NO way I was putting this novel down, until I had some answers.
The novel opens with a dark prologue detailing the discovery of a body with a missing head! So, you are made well aware from the onset, that this novel has some very dark scenes. The novel has alternate chapters between 1986 and 2016. The 1986 era, is very well written. The terminology, the childhood games and friendship circle are all, spot on! The author has done a fantastic job of bringing the era alive.
Then it begins to tell the story of our protagonist Eddie/Ed…….
In 1986 Eddie aka Eddie Munster, had a gang of friends. Fat Gav, Hoppo, metal Mickey and the only girl Nicky. They meet every Saturday, to hang around the local park and build dens etc. This particular Saturday is special because the fair is in town and we all remember that feeling when the fair comes to town!!!
There is a freak accident at the fair and this brings in the introduction of waltzer girl Elisa. Elisa is the victim of the accident that leaves her horrifically disfigured. It also introduces her saviour and the new mysterious teacher Mr Halloran.
“They were wrong. Mr Halloran was many things, but normal was never one of them” – Eddie
Mr Halloran is the gang’s new teacher, at the start of term in September. He is new to the town and noticeable, as Mr Halloran is an albino. But at the opening of the novel he is portrayed as the hero that saves Elisa’s life. But there is always a shadowy, mysterious element when he enters a scene. For me personally, he became a character that evoked feelings of mistrust and a slight dislike. Why is he so creepy? What is his fascination with befriending the children? I HAD to know more about Mr Halloran!
In 2016, Eddie is now known as Ed, he is a 42yr old English teacher. Ed has stayed local and still lives in his childhood home in Anderbury. Slowly, over the course of the chapters we catch up with the rest of the gang and where they are now!
The characterisation of the gang, is brilliant and an example of some very skilled writing. It brings back childhood memories.
Even in the 2016 scenes, there is an element of mystery in the build-up. Ed starts receiving weird letters of chalk drawings. He has a young lodger Chloe, who intrudes herself into the story. He also has a dinner guest due, an old friend.
*What went through my head was, ‘he is having an old friend for dinner’. There were some subtle hints and nods to famous scary scenes.
That really added to the eerie feel of the novel.
At this point in my reading, I had hit 1am. The whole house was asleep and as I crept downstairs to the bathroom. I managed to freak myself out, which resulted in a scream and nearly waking the whole house up!
*So, a word to the wise, probably best to not read this in the dark at 1am!
The novel continues to jump between 1986 and 2016. We learn more about the elusive chalk man. How he haunts the gang and ultimately why!
Each chapter is cleverly written to drip feed information, that keeps you on the edge of your seat.
There is a real depth to the novel, details added so that the author can build upon the growing guessing game within the readers mind! Mr Halloran appears every so often with his creepy one liners, which made me even more distrustful of his intentions.
“Better to be a fool than an angel” Mr Halloran
In the modern day, someone or something is haunting the gang. When adult Mickey ends up dead, the novel really picks up its pace. There are some disturbing scenes of bullying from the past and we learn this gang is as complex as it is fascinating!
When the past and the present finally collide, it is a rollercoaster of an ending, that is in my opinion, completely unpredictable.
Huge respect to the author on this amazing debut novel.
I predict a bright future ahead of her and some sleepless nights ahead of me! 4.5*