The Chalk Man by C. J. Tudor (first published in 2018 by Michael Joseph, an imprint of Penguin Random House)

In 1986, 12-year-old Eddie is a socially awkward kid growing up in an English village, where he spends most of his time with his set group of friends. 

Fat Gav: the group’s leader. Hoppo: the peacemaker and Eddie’s best friend. Nicki: the lone girl and Eddie’s secret crush. And Metal Mickey: always up for stirring trouble and kept around for reasons no one can quite explain. 

All in all, life is pretty carefree for Eddie who internalizes everything and shares nothing with the outside word.

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But when eerie chalk figures left on trees lead the group to the dismembered remains of a teenage girl, events are set in motion that none of the friends can escape.

Thirty years later, the ‘die’ in Eddie is gone (as is his late father), but Ed has fought and resisted change every step of the way.

Case in point: Ed still resides in the same town, attends the same school (although now as a teacher), and lives in the same house (with his much-younger boarder, Chloe). 

When Mickey returns after more than twenty years away, announcing his plans to write a book about the murder and his knowledge of the real killer, Ed has no intention of revisiting the nightmare. 

But soon the murders start again, and Ed is forced to admit that the past isn’t done with them yet.

C.J. Tudor’s debut is suspense packed and riveting. The writing is incredible; skillfully effective and beautifully evocative. 

Chapters end on dangling cliffhangers, and the plot twists and turns as the narrative shifts between past and present. 

The protagonist is flawed and, at times, unlikeable—as is the entire cast, really. And, hooray for it! As it is their flaws that give this cast a truly remarkable level of realism, one I’ve rarely read. 

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By sprinkling the plot with connections for the readers to make, Tudor expands this story-world into a realm where The Chalk Man takes on a life of its own. Scenes of gore and sexual assault are brief but extremely graphic. At times, the story dips into horror, but the genre is psychological thriller.

Purchase a copy of the book from Raru.co.za.

Read more of Meredith’s reviews on her Instagram account.

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