Last Wednesday night, we got hit by a huge storm. Around 11:00, after a brilliant flash of lightning, we lost all power. (The power wouldn’t return for nearly 12 hours.) Since I didn’t want to go to sleep until the power came back on, I ended up sitting in the living room and reading, by the glow of the flashlight, C.J. Tudor’s The Chalk Man.
In the year 1986, in a small English village, five children stumbled across a mystery. Eddie, Fat Gav, Metal Mickey, Hoppo, and Nicky followed a series of chalk drawing into the woods and what they found changed both them and the town forever. Their discovery would not only reveal several carefully held secrets but would also lead to accusations and tragedy.
30 years later, Eddie still lives in the village and that discovery continues to haunt him. Actually, many things haunt Eddie. He has yet to recover from watching his father slowly die of Alzheimer’s. A compulsive thief as a child, he’s now grown up to be a hoarder. In his more reflective moments, he admits that he’s become an alcoholic. He’s still a friend to some of his classmates from 1986 but his closest relationship is with his border, the much younger Chloe. He fears that, as a teacher, he’s not reaching his students. When Eddie was younger, there was one teacher who reached him, a teacher who was linked to that discovery in the woods.
And then, one night, an old acquaintance shows up on Eddie’s doorstep, bringing with him a business proposal. And soon, Eddie is once again trying to solve the mysteries of 1986. Everyone still has their secrets. No one can claim to be totally innocent. Not even Eddie.
The debut novel of C.J. Tudor, The Chalk Man alternates between scenes set in 1986 and scenes set in 2016. Though the structure may bring to mind Stranger Things or Stephen King’s It, The Chalk Man quickly establishes its own identity. It’s an intriguing book, one that uses its central mystery to explore themes of aging, loss, memory, and prejudice. While the book has a few flaws that are common to most first novels, it’s still an enjoyable and compulsive read and I look forward to reading what C.J. Tudor comes up with next.
Incidentally, I also look forward to inevitable film version of The Chalk Man. As long as Ewan McGregor plays the grown-up Eddie, I’ll be happy…