Publication date: 11th January 2018
Publisher: Penguin Michael Joseph
Links: Goodreads | Amazon UK
Blurb: Looking back, it all started on the day of the fair and the terrible accident. When twelve-year-old Eddie first met the Chalk Man.
It was the Chalk Man who gave Eddie the idea for the drawings: a way to leave secret messages between his group of friends.
And it was fun, to start with, until the figures led them to the body of a young girl.
That was thirty years ago and Ed thought the past was behind him. Then he receives a letter containing just two things: a piece of chalk, and a drawing of a stick figure. As history begins to repeat itself, Ed realises the game was never over…
Everyone has secrets. Everyone is guilty of something. And children are not always so innocent.
Review: The first thing I have to say about this book is that the cover will drive you absolutely mad because every time you pick it up, you’ll think it’s dusty and want to wipe it. It’s not. It’s made to look like that. Very effective. But very, very, annoying for those of us who love cleaning. Anyway! The Chalk Man… The second I saw the cover and read the blurb I knew, I knew I needed that book in my life. The author ever so kindly offered to ask the publishers if I could be sent an ARC but in the meantime, I actually won a copy of the book as well. So it was obviously fate that this book was meant to land in my hands.
The Chalk Man has a duel timeline of ‘present day’ 2016 and 1986. The main character, Ed, now in his 40’s is still living in the house he grew up in, in a quiet town from his childhood. He has a lodger, Chloe and works as a teacher in the local school. He doesn’t have a wife or girlfriend and drinks and smokes too much. When one day out of the blue, he receives a letter with a piece of white chalk and a drawing of a stick figure. His childhood with his friends comes rushing back, the chalk drawings they used to draw to each other and the ones that appeared by themselves. And the huge list of consequences that stemmed from them.
I loved the split between past and present in this book, Ed was very much the same person in both despite the 30 year age difference. Ed really is one of the most likeable characters I have ever encountered in a book. He’s not got much going for him; he’s a scruffy 40 something with no family or girlfriend who still lives in the house he grew up in, smokes like a chimney, drinks like a fish and hoards stuff he doesn’t need. So on paper, he really doesn’t sound all that great but honestly, long live Ed. I loved Ed. And I loved his little group of friends; Fat Gav, Hoppo and Nicky as well.
All the characters were so rich and diverse and there were some exceptionally interesting ones in this story. Some who you massively get the wrong impression of. I definitely didn’t finish this book with the same feelings of some of the characters as I did when it started. Ed’s teacher, Mr Halloran was fascinating. I felt like he represented something but I’m not quite sure what. I don’t think I would want to know as I like the mystery and the secrecy around him. You simultaneously find out everything and nothing bout him all at once. The only downer about the characters for me was that I wished Ed’s friends Hoppo and Fat Gav were in the “present day” chapters more than they were, because I really liked them.
Now the story itself didn’t go where I thought it would. I don’t really know what I was thinking but it wasn’t what actually happened that’s for sure. To put it simply, it’s a book of what if’s. It’s a book of consequences and circumstances and how X wouldn’t have happened if Y didn’t happen. Ed elaborates on this throughout the book and it’s nice that we’re on the same page. Me and my mate Ed. Ed witnesses an accident at a fun fair right at the beginning of the book where a girl tragically gets half her face hacked off and an almost-lost-leg from a flying Waltzer cart. This incident sparks a chain reaction of events which continue right up until present day. What if, what if, what if.
The writing style itself was completely effortless. It was one of the easiest books to read, just about ever. It almost read as a Young Adult novel in terms of style but definitely wasn’t young adult as it had a lot of darker themes, blood, gore, severed heads – the works. But if you like that sort of carefree, easy going style of writing then you’ll love this. And talking of themes, this really did have everything. Ed was quite funny in a not-meaning-to-be kind of way. It was creepy, like a horror but bloody and gory in parts, like a crime with a murder case running throughout. It also dealt with bullying, dementia life and death. It had everything.
I’m genuinely gutted that this book isn’t out until 2018 because I want you all to read it right now. This is debut of the freaking century right here and it’s going to cause an absolute storm when it’s released. Utterly fantastic, all-encompassing, gripping and totally eerie with a killer ending. Every chapter will keep you guessing to the point where you feel like Sherlock bloody Holmes. The Chalk Men will haunt you for days after putting it down.