It was only meant to be a game . . .
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?
I'd been meaning to read this book for many months. I must say that I was particularly intrigued by the hanged chalk man drawing on the cover. I like good thrillers where murderers leave their unique signatures, leaving the investigator baffled as to their meaning, but hey! On reading this book I discovered that the chalk men weren't some killer's calling cards at all.
In the summer of 1986, twelve-year-old Eddie and his friends devised a coding system by which they could communicate with each other using a set of chalk men figures drawn on each other's doorstep or pavement. This was their secret messaging system and no one else knew how to decipher it. One day, the chalk men figures lead all gang members into the woods together where they make a horrendous discovery. But, wait a minute, if none of the boys has drawn the chalk men that day, then who did? Who else knew the meaning of the chalk men?
The story goes back and forth in time from 1986 to 2016. Eddie is now a full-grown man and teacher living in his mother's house. An unexpected anonymous letter in the post, suddenly brings the summer of 2016, the summer he has tried so hard to forget, back to haunt him. That murder has never been solved. The questions he had asked himself back then remained unanswered. The terrible nightmares have returned too. Now, who after all this time has decided to rake up the past again? And why?
Well, I liked the premise of the book and the whole whodunnit mystery. This book is very well-written and we have a number of interesting, engaging characters. I liked Eddie. He's a likeable normal boy struggling with peer pressure and hormones and with a penchant for collecting (or rather stealing) odd items. I preferred reading about him as a boy though rather than an adult.
I mostly enjoyed the first part of the book and had a definite 5-star rating in mind while I was reading it. I liked the gripping prologue, the mood and setting of the story, the individual characters, the idea of the chalk men. However, sadly, as I progressed through the book, I found myself wading through way too many twists and turns. I felt that there were like too many things going on at the same time, too many loose ends. Don't forget that the story bounces back and forth in time with twists and turns going on in both time periods. I honestly ended up struggling to keep my thoughts in order. Finally, I thought the final confrontation was far-fetched for various reasons and I'm sorry to say I was left very disappointed by the final chapter. I mean come on!! Are you serious? This was a freakin' twelve-year-old!! I can't say more as I don't want to give spoilers, but I do have a certain limit as to what to accept as credible or possible. Sorry!
Don't get me wrong. This is a good twisty thriller that kept me on my toes wanting to know more, and ultimately I think that's what has frustrated me the most. I really, really wanted to love this book. As I said it's very well written and I have connected with the characters, but I think the author tried to put in way too much.
Obviously as for my other reviews, this is just my honest unbiased opinion. I've seen that many readers have enjoyed this book more than I did and I'm sure many others will too.
C. J. Tudor lives with her partner and young daughter. Her love of writing, especially the dark and macabre, started young. When her peers were reading Judy Blume, she was devouring Stephen King and James Herbert.
Over the years she has had a variety of jobs, including trainee reporter, radio scriptwriter, dog walker, voiceover artist, television presenter, copywriter and, now, author.
Her first novel, The Chalk Man, was a Sunday Times bestseller and sold in thirty-nine territories.