“In 1986, Eddie and his friends are just kids on the verge of adolescence. They spend their days biking around their sleepy little English village and looking for any taste of excitement they can get. The chalk men are their secret code; little chalk stick figures they leave for one another as messages only they can understand. But then a mysterious chalk man leads them right to a dismembered body, and nothing is ever the same.
In 2016, Eddie is fully grown, and thinks he’s put his past behind him. But then he gets a letter in the mail, containing a single chalk stick figure. When it turns out that his friends got the same message, they think it could be a prank . . . until one of them turns up dead.”
A very impressive debut novel by CJ Tudor, I found The Chalk Man reminiscent of the writing of a young Stephen King, with a tinge of Stranger Things/Stand by Me thrown in for good measure. The story moves back and forth between 1986 and 2016, and in doing so, we see the impressive cast of characters grow and with them, their secrets grow bigger too.
Our protagonist. Eddie is in his early 40s, going about his business day to day, sharing his ramshackle family home with his lodger Chloe, a 20-something woman who works in an alternative clothing shop and enjoys annoying Eddie’s mum when she comes by to visit.
As we meet Eddie he has received a chalk drawing of a stick man that takes him back to his childhood friends and this leads him to re-evaluate the games they played as children. Following the chalk drawings they used to leave as a secret code for each other led them to a murdered and dismembered girl. A girl Eddie had feelings for. The reappearance of the chalk man in Eddie’s life takes him on a journey both through the past he has tried to forget, and his unfolding present.
As events unfold, it becomes clear that the game was never really over. Is Eddie in danger?
There are many interesting and serious subjects covered in this book, the child becoming the parent, dementia, murder, jealousy, fear – but the main theme that runs throughout is that everyone has secrets, even children. And sometimes, they can be worse than you could ever imagine.