Audiobook Review: The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor

I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.

The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor

Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 4 of 5 stars

Genre: Thriller, Mystery

Series: Stand Alone

Publisher: Random House Audio (January 9, 2018)

Length: 9 hrs and 50 mins

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Narrator: Euan Morton

I’m trying to add more mysteries and thrillers to my reading repertoire this year, so earlier this month when an opportunity to review The Chalk Man audiobook landed into my lap, I decided to take it. After all, you can hardly expect me to say no to a book that has been compared to the works of Stephen King and Stranger Things.

Described as a tale of psychological suspense and a murder mystery, this book is told through the eyes of protagonist Eddie Adams in a narrative divided between two timelines. In the summer of 1986, Eddie is a 12-year-old boy doing what all 12-year-olds do when school’s out and the weather’s nice: he and his friends Hoppo, Metal Mickey, Fat Gav, and Nicky spend their days playing in the park, riding their bikes, and exploring the woods around their quiet English village of Anderbury. Then Fat Gav receives a bucket of chalk for his birthday, which inspires the five of them to invent a way of communicating amongst themselves by using coded chalk drawings. Soon, all of them are using this system to leave each other secret messages—until one day, someone else uses their code to lead them to a grisly discovery.

Fast forward to 2016, and Eddie is a middle-aged man recalling the day thirty years ago when those unexplained chalk drawings pointed him and his friends to a dismembered body in the woods. He had thought the past was behind him, but then he receives a letter in the mail with a single stick figure drawn in chalk. The mystery deepens when he finds out that his friends also got the same message, reminding them all of what happened that summer. The whole town had thought the murder was solved, the killer identified, and the case put to rest—but the little chalk man suggests otherwise. Then one of Eddie’s friends, who claims to know who the real killer was, ends up dead. It seems the past will continue to haunt them all, unless Eddie can uncover the truth of what happened all those years ago.

This book had me engrossed from beginning to end. Like all debuts it had its flaws, but nevertheless, it’s hard to believe this was the author’s first novel, since she seemed to have such a firm grasp on all the touchstones of the genre. Atmosphere was something Tudor managed exceedingly well, creating a story filled with tension and suspense. The 1986 chapters painted a very authentic picture of the time period and of life in a small insular village where everyone knows each other’s business. As such, there were plenty of opportunities for side plots involving the townsfolk, as well as other elements all going on at the same time, and these were all blended perfectly together to add drama and intrigue to the main storyline. This kept the overall mystery unpredictable with carefully constructed false leads and surprising twists, resulting in a very entertaining experience.

This book was also a very detailed study on the character of Eddie Adams. We get to know him fairly well, seeing the events through his point of view as a child on the verge of adolescence, and then as a grown man. However, there’s a touch of the “unreliable narrator” about him too, especially when it becomes clear early on that Eddie is himself a bit of an oddity. Like many of the townspeople, our protagonist has plenty of his own secrets, and really, what 12-year-old boy is a paragon of honesty? As an adult, Eddie is more even-tempered and mature, though there’s no doubt that the events of that summer have affected him deeply, and we also get the sense of a man full of regret. Throughout the novel, there’s a recurring theme of inaction leading to misery, as well as unintentional acts leading to harm or misfortune, which might explain why the 42-year-old Eddie is so driven to find the truth, possibly because he feels the need to make up for past mistakes.

Engaging and intense, The Chalk Man is a book that will have you constantly wondering who, what, how, and why. Non-linear narratives can be tricky, but C.J. Tudor uses the alternating timelines to great effect, timing the twists and revelations perfectly to induce horror and suspense, creating an atmosphere of unease that is always creeping at the edge of your consciousness. Her debut is a psychological thriller worthy of the genre, well written with slow teases and cleverly dropped clues that gradually build up to a chilling finale. Highly recommended.

Audiobook Comments: Euan Morton was a great narrator, who pulled me into the story straight away. Between his reading and the author’s writing, this was an audiobook I couldn’t stop listening to and I finished it in two days.

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36 Comments on “Audiobook Review: The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor

  1. You know, you are one of the most dangerous people I follow here on WordPress.
    I have added more books based on your reviews than all the other people combined that I follow on WP. And considering how strict I am about adding books, that says something.

    So you should probably start writing a string of really crappy reviews for the next couple of months, you know? I’m thinking maybe a ton of sparkly gifs and make sure to use phonetic sounding words instead of properly spelling them out. Fake factoids would probably be good too.

    😉

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, I live for annoying people by putting more books onto their reading list, muahahahah! 😉

      Anyway, I’m glad this one got your attention! It’s probably not going to be for everyone, like there’s some disturbing, upsetting, possibly controversial stuff, but I did end up enjoying it a lot. And haha, I don’t know if I’ll start writing crappy reviews, but actually one of the things I want to try this year is write shorter, more succinct reviews. As you can see, I have a tendency to blather on and on and on in my reviews.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I just head about this book for the first time yesterday from another blogger, who said a bunch of other reviews had been ranting and raving about! Well, I guess I’m starting to see why 🙂 Though, I was a little skeptical at first, because: bunch of kids together, find dead body, comeback to haunt them years later… have heard that set-up a few times before.

    Like

  3. This sounds amazing. I love the Stranger Things comparison, and it sounds like Tudor is a very skilled author to be able to pull of such a complex story.

    Like

    • It was really good! Though I did find after reading the book that the Stranger Things comparison is somewhat misleading. There’s an 80s component, yes, and it’s also about a group of kids, but that’s about it. There’s really no element of the supernatural at all 🙂

      Like

  4. I don’t read nearly enough mystery novels! I don’t read any ADULT mystery it seems, but there have been one or two YA mystery novels in the past few years that I’ve actually enjoyed. I think mystery just isn’t my thing? Especially the creepy chilling ones! I’m more of a fantasy gal. 😀 I’m glad you enjoyed this one, Mogsy! Great review!

    Have a wonderful week. =)

    Alyssa @ The Eater of Books!

    Like

  5. I just finished this one yesterday. I liked it well enough but it didn’t hit me like it has a lot of other bloggers. I couldn’t stop thinking of IT when reading it – except the kids weren’t likable. And then there’s the whole issue with Murphy. I actually liked Murphy but none of the other characters and I found Eddie to be quite creepy in and of himself. I just don’t have a lot of luck with really hyped books. First Final Girls, and now this one. I enjoyed reading your thoughts though and I’m glad it worked for you.

    Like

    • Oh I agree, the kids in this one were right little brats. Though I kinda felt the same way reading IT, too lol! And oof, yeah, that part with Murphy was brutal. I can see why, as a dog lover, that would bother you a lot. I know you don’t like books where bad things happen to animals 😦

      Like

    • I was just thinking about that too, how mystery/thrillers tend to work really well in audio. I think their stories tend to be gripping and “unputdownable” by nature, so you don’t lose focus as much, and so it makes the book seem to go by a lot quicker 😀

      Like

  6. The “IT” vibes in the story’s synopsis were quite strong, and for that reason alone I would read this book; if you add the two separate timelines (one of my favorite narrative tropes), this becomes impossible to resist. So why should I? 🙂
    Great review, thanks for sharing!
    (and I echo Bookstooge’s sentiments: you ARE dangerous! 😀 😀 )

    Like

    • Heehee, I aim to please 😉

      And yes, the two separate timelines were done really well. You know me, I am so picky when it comes to nonlinear storytelling, and I really don’t prefer it. So for me to like this book, that’s huge for me!

      Like

  7. I really liked the sound of this one and I’m humming and ahhing about buying a copy – BUT, as all my bought books from last year have remained on the shelves playing second fiddle to review copies I’m not so keen to keep adding to the burden. I do like the sounds of this one though. It’s a dilemma.
    Lynn 😀

    Like

  8. Pingback: Mogsy’s Bookshelf Roundup: Stacking the Shelves & Recent Reads | The BiblioSanctum

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