A thriller with a captivating plot AND great writing? I feel like a birdwatcher sighting a rare and elusive species! I love it when talented writers apply their skills to genre fiction because it results in books like The Chalk Man—compulsively readable, yet allowing the smug satisfaction of having finished a quality piece of literature when you turn the final page. It’s been a while since I’ve been so consumed with a book, desperate to know what happens next, and so often when I have had that feeling it’s come with the nagging frustration that the technical execution didn’t do the plot justice. Not this time! I was sucked into Eddie’s life and the strange happenings in his English hometown from the word go.
A lot of people are turning up dead (in rather spectacular fashion) in Eddie’s town, even though it’s supposed to be the type of sleepy village where nothing bad ever happens. A big part of what creates the momentum is the way the timeline alternates between Eddie’s preadolescence and adulthood. Tudor is the master of ending a chapter on a cliffhanger. There were so many times I wanted to skip ahead, but being a rule follower from birth, I refrained—I had to settle for reading each chapter as fast as I could.
The sections taking place in Eddie’s childhood, as he and his friends bike around town, try to evade bullies, and leave chalk messages for each other, feel delightfully nostalgic despite the slow-growing, sinister shadow of murder. I can see fans of Stranger Things finding a lot to like in this book. It has that same sense of grown-up problems being confronted by kids who are brave but maybe don’t fully understand what they’re dealing with.