Today I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for The Chalk Man, the stunning new novel from CJ Tudor. I’ll be sharing my thoughts with you in just a moment, as soon as we’ve taken a look at what the book is all about.
The Official Book Blurb
We all have fears we hide from. But in the end they will find us . . .
The Chalk Man is coming . . .
None of us ever agreed on the exact beginning.
Was it when we started drawing the chalk figures, or when they started to appear on their own?
Was it the terrible accident?
Or when they found the first body?
Oh my. This book. I grew up on a (probably not quite) healthy diet of Stephen King books and movies, and amongst my favourites was the short story The Body, published in the collection Different Seasons. Some of you would know it as the movie, Stand By Me. Imagine this story, uprooted from King’s native Maine, replanted in the UK, but with a very creeping and chilling presence pulsating along beside it. This is what you get when you pick up and start leafing through the pages of The Chalk Man. Only even better.
I don’t know that I can find the right words to do this book justice. From the very start you get a sense of the chills which are to come. It is the kind of opening which makes your skin begin to crawl and lets you know that this isn’t going to be a gentle walk in the park type of a book. In fact, after reading it, I’m not sure I’d want to walk in a park again. What follows this oh so effective prologue is a story of a group of friends, Eddie, Fat Gav, Metal Mickey, Hoppo and Nicky, split into two – starting at the fateful summer of 1986 which becomes the catalyst for the central thread of the story, and the present day. Much has changed for the five friends in the intervening years, irreparable damage and broken friendships, but something happens which brings them back together with very brutal consequences. A kind of right of passage novel with a dark and twisted heart.
I don’t really want to say much more than that on the plot. I think that it is a much better for you to experience the book for yourself to uncover both the darkness and the light which feeds through the narrative. For there is something really eerie at play here. So many characters who will take you by surprise, events which will both stun you and play with your emotions. A particularly gruesome scene at a fairground which cements my feelings that rollercoasters are evil and should be avoided. A grim discovery or two which lead to so much sense of remorse and guilt. They are all to be found when you delve into the community of Anderbury.
For me, one of the greatest parts of the book was the way in which author CJ Tudor brought back to life the sense of being a child in the 1980’s. This was my time and could well have been describing my summers – well with one notable exception. The camaraderie between Eddie and co. The bullying, the secrets, the overwhelming feeling of invincibility. The sad and quiet acceptance that as Peter Davison regenerated into Colin Baker, Dr Who just wouldn’t be the same for many, many, years to come … As much as the book has the ability to give the reader the willies (good old saying from my youth there) it also made me kind of nostalgic. I found myself smiling and nodding almost as much as I was stunned by the story.
And it is a brilliant story. Such great characterisation – the younger and older versions of Eddie and his friends as troublesome as they were entertaining, as spirited as they were innocent. As likable as any eleven or twelve year old kids could be. Eddie, as our central character, is endearing as both his younger and older self, if a somewhat tragic character too, but he is someone I think a lot of folk could identify with. Well, mostly … And the supporting characters are all so life-like, their moods, their secrets. From bullies to teachers, Eddie comes into contact with numerous folk who will completely change his life and takes us, most willingly, along for the ride.
This is not a particularly fast paced novel, but it doesn’t need to be. This wouldn’t suit the story. What it is is atmospheric, the key theme of the ‘chalk man’ used to good effect. This creates a kind of suspense, the question mark over whether everything that happens is strictly of this world. And with each page turn you find yourself being sucked further into the mystery, desperate to learn who, what, and most definitely why. Nothing is as it seems and each revelation leads to more unanswered questions and more chills. And then … that ending! Ooff. Hits you smack in the face like an unexpected right hook. Pure class.
This book is, in a word, fabulous. I strongly urge you to go out a grab yourselves a copy. You won’t regret it. It’s early days, but I can already see this being in my list of favourite books of 2018, so much so, I think I’m going to give it one of these …
My second of the year. And it’s only January 10th. Can you tell that 2018 is going to be a bookish wonder?
My thanks go to publishers Michael Joseph who provided an advance copy of the book for review and to Jenny Platt for inviting me to be a part of the tour. The Chalk Man is released tomorrow and can be ordered from the following retailers:
About the Author
C. J. Tudor was born in Salisbury and grew up in Nottingham, where she still lives with her partner and young daughter. Her love of writing, especially the dark and macabre, started young. When her peers were reading Judy Blume, she was devouring Stephen King and James Herbert.
Over the years she has had a variety of jobs, including trainee reporter, waitress, radio scriptwriter, shop assistant, voiceover artist, television presenter, copywriter and now author. The Chalk Man is her first novel.
Make sure to check out some of the other brilliant blogs taking part in the tour for more reviews and features.