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Presented by State Library Victoria

The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor

I apologise immensely for the following bland-ish review. My brain is still comatose from the ending of The Chalk Man.

Summary:

In her debut novel The Chalk Man, C.J. Tudor paints a vivid tale of murder and loss to in that spans several decades. Narrated in flashbacks to the mid 80’s when the narrator, Eddie was a twelve year old boy growing up with his misfit friends to an adult now- still uncovering the truth of the about the body of a teenage girl he and his group found in the woods back when they were kids.

Review:

I have barely any words to describe how thrilling this novel was. For a first time author, C.J. Tudor had a lot to accomplish, The Chalk Man exceeded those expectations. Told from the perspective of 12 year-old  and 40 year-old Eddie, this story evolves into something much greater than all of us. From the moment Eddie saw ‘Waltzer Girl’s’ face get smashed up to the moment he figures out who really killed her, this novel grasps onto something more precious than anything: the perspective of a child. As the book ambles on, we start to realise clues and hidden things that although young Eddie missed, he now understands on reflection. These hidden clues are not just physical items either, but phrases and quirks that link people to actions and actions to crimes. Tudor expertly wove the plot with something more sinister as we explore what the small town has really endured and how it came to be. She could of easily tangled all the suspense and mystery up into a confusing knot, but instead slowly released information with every passing chapter, cleverly linking points together to give the impression that we, alongside Eddie, were figuring out the mystery.

The descriptions and settings suited each point of view perfectly, with young Eddie keenly viewing things in a rushed fashion compared to the slow, tantalising observations made by old Eddie.  Tudor doesn’t let opportunities like the two different viewpoints go to waste, but rather skilfully projected the mistakes we make during childhood and adulthood through vocabulary, almost giving the words on the page a personality of their own. From the very first page, you’re hooked on what really happened to Waltzer Girl.

What I Liked Most in The Chalk Man:

Firstly, Tudor did not let anything go to waste. Every character mentioned had a purpose, every place Eddie visited linked back, even words and phrases meant something when it came down to the final chapter. This entire book revolves around what really happened to Waltzer Girl and instead of straying from the real plot of the story and getting sidetracked with sub-plots, The Chalk Man embodied this question.

Secondly, the ending had me gripping onto the book for dear life. Some say that the way we find out about the Reverend was hurried and not well thought out, but the Reverend’s story was really just something to distract us from what Eddie had done. No one saw coming what Eddie admitted in the last few pages of this novel and it even left me – who thinks I know everything – absolutely gobsmacked, brain-fried and slightly hallucinogenic. Not one character is innocent which makes this thriller unique and interesting.

And lastly, the actual question of who the chalk man is gave the book a whole new sense of purpose. The actual plot (as stated) is about the Waltzer Girl, but the the real question of who is the chalk man is something Tudor left for us to figure out. Is it the teacher, the Reverend, Eddie? Or is it just the obvious theme of ‘something used innocently as a child becomes much more menacing as we grow up’?

What did other people think?

“Tudor has created an exciting and thrilling tale, where creative plot twists and unexpected developments keep you guessing and second guessing, as to not only where the story is going, but what truly drives each character. How much can you take someone at face value? Who is innocent? Who is guilty? Should the past remain the past? The plot is always one step ahead, and that final piece of the puzzle evades your grasp until the moment when the author decides to bestow it upon you.” -Grace Keane

“I haven’t felt this sure of a book’s worthiness to be read since I picked up The Dry by Jane Harper back in January. I’ll admit, I find myself enjoying a majority of the books that I read; I don’t know if I’m just not as picky as other readers or if, after so many years of reading, I generally can tell what will tickle my fancy. That said, there are the books you enjoy, and then there are THOSE books. You know the ones I mean; the unicorns, the diamonds in the rough, the ones you’ll be shoving in peoples face screaming “OH MYLANTA READ THIS BOOK! LET’S TALK ABOUT IT!!!” because it’s just that good. Well, it’s official-this one gets the highly prestigious Holy Guacamole stamp of approval.” -Chelsea Humphrey

Overall Comment:

Reminiscent of Stephen King’s The BodyThe Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor explores the adventures of a young group of boys who find something they’ll never forget. This story excels higher than many other crime/mystery fiction we see today. The combination of dark humour, tantalising chapters and excellent word play makes this novel a need for anyone’s TBR pile!

-E

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