When you pick up a thriller, it will generally tell you that it is guaranteed to be “the most chilling book of the year,” but most seem to fall short on that claim. It’s a situation that always leaves me feeling like I’ve been cheated out of a good scare or a heart-stopping series of events. However, that is not the case with C.J. Tudor’s The Chalk Man. Not only does it live up to its “chilling” blurbs, but it also proves to be delightfully unsettling.
The story begins with Eddie (our narrator) receiving a chalk drawing of a stick figure from a mysterious sender, which sends him back 30 years to a seemingly innocent childhood game he once played with his friends. What began as secret messages etched in chalk soon turned into a series of events that went terribly wrong. Shifting from past to present, Eddie grapples with horrors he soon finds he could never truly outrun or forget.
What I like most about The Chalk Man is that it keeps the reader guessing from start to finish. There were many times I thought I had everything figured out until the story took a sharp right turn on the following page. I found myself changing my mind and experiencing several shocking moments until the very last page. This aura of indecision is also helped along by Eddie’s role as an unreliable narrator, which isn’t apparent until much later in the book. Readers will want to accuse everyone of wrongdoing, but will never see the truth until it spells itself out one chalk man at a time.
If you’re looking for a book that will keep you on the edge of your seat, The Chalk Man is for you. And, as far as debut novels go, C.J. Tudor has achieved something wonderful here. That said, I’m very much looking forward to her next book, The Taking of Annie Thorne, in February 2019.