Monday, January 29, 2018

TLC Book Review: THE CHALK MAN by C. J. Tudor

Pub. Date: January 9th, 2018
Publisher: Crown
Pages: 288

Genres: Fiction / Contemporary Fiction / Crime / Thriller / Mystery / Suspense


The must-read thriller of 2018, this riveting and relentlessly compelling psychological suspense debut weaves a mystery about a childhood game gone dangerously awry that will keep readers guessing right up to the shocking ending

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.

That’s when Eddie realizes that saving himself means finally figuring out what really happened all those years ago.

Expertly alternating between flashbacks and the present day, The Chalk Man is the very best kind of suspense novel, one where every character is wonderfully fleshed out and compelling, where every mystery has a satisfying payoff, and where the twists will shock even the savviest reader.

What Did I Think About the Story?

Like so many readers I'm often skeptical when I read a book is "the next big thriller' or "the most anticipated book of the year". I get so excited yet also nervous that my expectations will be set too high and I'll end up disappointed. So, while I have to admit I was drawn to The Chalk Man based on its hype-inducing synopsis, I went into it with an open mind and tamed expectations.  I'm glad to say that the book turned out to be quite mysterious and page-turning, with an ending that completely surprised me.

The story travels back and forth between 1986, when Eddie and his friends have a topsy-turvy year full of heartache and horror, and 2016, when the past seems to be bringing up long buried secrets and truths that no one really wants to deal with. What I enjoyed most about this back and forth style of storytelling in this instance was how C.J. Tudor used it to unweave the tangled lies and half-truths that everyone in this small village seemed to be harboring, including Eddie. We also get to witness the loss of innocence these characters go through as kids and how that comes to affect the adults they become. So much of what is revealed during the story turns out to be more about these seemingly small actions - whether as revenge or a joke or something else - that end up having much bigger and far-reaching consequences than any of the characters anticipated. And as soon as we get to see the unraveling of one mystery - bam! - you're switching back to the other storyline and you have to wait to go back and see how the actual truth will affect the remaining mysteries. It's a delicious bait-and-switch situation!

The other aspect of the story I enjoyed immensely was how Tudor lolls the reader into a sense of security with something ordinary and simplistic and then throws in shocks that you can't see coming. I don't want to give anything away so I won't go into specifics, but every time I felt like I was reading some passage of the story meant to fill in information - a trip to the fair, kids meeting up at the park, a birthday party - something unexpected and, often, devastating ended up happening and I found myself having to catch my breath. All I'll say is this small village has some unbelievably screwed up secrets in its past and I loved learning about each one.

Finally, let me just tell you that the ending actually stopped me in my tracks and made me go back and read to make sure I was really reading what I thought I was reading. It was such a gut-punch shock that I literally had to put it down, wait a minute, and pick it back up again. My boss was reading it at the same time and, when I asked her if she finished, she had the same reaction as I did..."oh my god can you believe the ending!". It might be one of the best thriller endings I've read in a while and just the best surprise I could have never expected.

The Chalk Man is, in fact, a must-read thriller. While some of the narrative is understated and leads you into a false sense of a "coming of age" sweetness underlying the bad things that have happened, the horrors that are revealed in this town are much darker and lead you to the real moral of this story: do not assume anything because, if you do, you are in for an awakening. I can't wait to read what C.J. Tudor writes next!

What Did I Think About the Cover?

At first I thought it was just okay. The Chalk slashes obviously fit in with the story, but it's the fair ride in the background - which I didn't see at first - that really represents the start of all the chaos within the story. Now, knowing this, I really like the cover and think the cover artists did a great job with it.

My Rating: 4.5/5.0 

I received a copy of The Chalk Man from TLC Book Tours and Crown Publishing in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! Continue below for more information about the book, the author, and the tour.

Praise for The Chalk Man

“Readers will undoubtedly be reminded of the kids of Stand by Me and even IT…[the] first-person narration alternates between past and present, taking full advantage of chapter-ending cliffhangers. A swift, cleverly plotted debut novel that ably captures the insular, slightly sinister feel of a small village. Children of the 1980s will enjoy the nostalgia.”—Kirkus

“I haven’t had a sleepless night due to a book for a long time. The Chalk Man changed that.” —Fiona Barton, New York Times bestselling author of The Widow

Buy the Book

About the Author

C. J. TUDOR lives in Nottingham, England, with her partner and three-year-old daughter. Over the years she has worked as a copywriter, television presenter, voice-over, and dog walker. She is now thrilled to be able to write full-time, and doesn’t miss chasing wet dogs through muddy fields all that much. The Chalk Man is her first novel.

Connect with C.J. on Facebook and Twitter.

TLC Book Tours Schedule

Monday, January 8th: Katy’s Library blog and @katyslibrary
Monday, January 8th: Jenn’s Bookshelves
Tuesday, January 9th: Bookworm Everlasting blog and @everlasting.charm
Tuesday, January 9th: Clues and Reviews and @cluesandreviews
Tuesday, January 9th: 5 Minutes for Books
Wednesday, January 10th: She Treads Softly
Wednesday, January 10th: Moonlight Rendezvous
Wednesday, January 10th: Tome Tender
Thursday, January 11th: Books a la Mode – author guest post
Thursday, January 11th: Rockin’ & Reviewing
Friday, January 12th: Snowdrop Dreams
Friday, January 12th: Jathan and Heather
Monday, January 15th: BookBub Blog – author guest post “Eight Thrillers with Scary Children/Teenagers”
Tuesday, January 16th: Bewitched Bookworms
Tuesday, January 16th: Booksie’s Blog
Wednesday, January 17th: Suzy Approved
Wednesday, January 17th: A Chick Who Reads
Thursday, January 18th: Lit Wit Wine Dine
Thursday, January 18th: Bibliotica
Friday, January 19th: Write Read Life
Monday, January 22nd: What is That Book About
Monday, January 22nd: Ms. Nose in a Book
Tuesday, January 23rd: A Bookworm’s World
Tuesday, January 23rd: The Book Diva’s Reads
Wednesday, January 24th: Girl Who Reads
Thursday, January 25th: Black ‘n Gold Girl’s Reviews
Friday, January 26th: Lovely Bookshelf
Monday, January 29th: Novel Gossip blog and @novelgossip
Monday, January 29th: A Literary Vacation
Monday, January 29th: Patricia’s Wisdom
Tuesday, January 30th: From the TBR Pile
Wednesday, January 31st: Staircase Wit
Thursday, February 1st: No More Grumpy Bookseller


  1. Great review, Colleen. I agree - that ending!! I'm still shaking my head over it!

    1. Thanks so much!! I think a lot of readers are doing the same thing about that ending, lol!

  2. Replies
    1. My pleasure! Thank you for letting me be a part of the tour, it was sooo good!