Rating: 5 Stars
Finally, a crime thriller that I could really sink my teeth into! The Chalk Man by C. J. Tudor is different in that it has a male protagonist and narrator. I have really become disillusioned with crazy females doing crazy shit, trying to become Amy Dunne! Here we have a middle-aged man, battling with his own demons, trying to appear as normal as possible, and failing to do so.
Eddie Adams is a British twelve-year-old in 1986, hanging out in his small town with his four friends, when their lives are changed irrevocably. A new albino teacher, Mr. Halloran, with the help of Eddie, saves the life of a girl after a freak accident at the fair, and from there it all starts unraveling fast as summer fades into autumn and the beginning of the new school year.
Eddie’s mom is a doctor and her newly opened clinic earns the wrath of the local vicar, who happens to be the father of one of Eddie’s group of friends. The vicar is a nasty man, whose own daughter seems to be scared of him. Eddie’s dad gets into a fight with the vicar at a birthday party and things become tense in a previously sleepy town.
The children, aware of the new tensions, spend most of their time trying to get the most out of the remaining summer. This includes coming up with a secret code to send each other messages with. The code involves making different symbols and stick figures with coloured chalk. each of them has a different coloured chalk so they can figure out who sent what message. Soon, however, they tire of this game and move on to other pursuits.
As things become worse in the town, the final blow comes when the dismembered body of a girl is discovered, with her head missing. The main suspect is Mr. Halloran. Eddie is sure of his innocence even as his normally easy-going parents think otherwise. As the police close the case, everyone thinks that things will finally go back to normal.
Thirty years later, Eddie Adams is a middle-aged, single, English teacher with a drinking problem, still living in his hometown. He gets a letter with a piece of chalk. The letter has a stick figure drawn on it. Memories of that long ago summer have left their scars on everyone, and it all starts coming back to Eddie now. When an old friend’s drowned body is found, Eddie realizes that things did not end thirty years ago, and he has to find the truth before another body turns up. The problem is that he cannot trust anyone, not even his closest friends, because everyone in this town has a secret to keep.
The character of Eddie Adams is interesting. The way he narrates the book, you know you shouldn’t trust him along with anyone else in this book. That he is a kleptomaniac, is established early on in the book. On top of that, he is a sleepwalker who has trouble differentiating between his dreams and reality. And his dreams are really creepy. He is flaky and vague, and is in no way a reliable narrator.
The book is fast paced and gripping. It makes you hold your breath and wait for what comes next. There are so many twists and turns that take you by surprise. Even if you’re able to predict some things, there is still a lot that makes you feel dizzy. For a fan of thrillers, this book is the perfect read. It made me remember why I love this genre so much!