It’s 1986 and Eddie and his group of friends (Hoppo, Fat Gav, Metal Mickey and Nicky) are doing the sort of things that all 12-year-olds do: riding their bikes, hanging around in playgrounds, writing secret messages using chalks… Things change forever when, after following a trail of drawings depicting chalk men, they find a dismembered body in the woods.
Fast forward thirty years and the murder is still fresh in the minds of all those involved. Still living at the house he shared with his parents, Eddie is drawn back in when a face from the past reappears and he starts noticing the chalk men once again. Not quite sure whether to believe what he is seeing, another death spurs him into trying to discover exactly what happened all those years ago.
There has been so much online buzz about this book and it even got a mention in a recent talk by the Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers so I thought it was about time I saw for myself what all the fuss was about. Am I so glad I did! The book grabbed me from the very first page and I found it very difficult to put down. I particularly liked the chapters set in 1986 as it evoked numerous childhood memories. I am thankful that my childhood was much less eventful than the children in this story however!
The Chalk Man is told from the perspective of Eddie and we get to see how events in 1986 have shaped both his future and that of all those involved. That year is certainly a memorable one for the children as, in addition to them finding the body, there is a fairground accident, a pro-life campaign and a serious assault to deal with. Perhaps, though, one of the most shocking parts of the book for me was the incident between Eddie and Sean, Metal Mickey’s brother. It is hard to say too much without revealing any spoilers but my heart really went out to Eddie for what he went through both during the event and also afterwards.
One of the things I enjoyed most about the book is how so many seemingly separate events all link together. This made for a very tight, well-written plot with no loose ends. I did fear that one thing had been overlooked but the closing scenes certainly put paid to that idea! Last year, social media was awash with the hashtag #WTFThatEnding with regards to the book Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough. The same hashtag could certainly apply here as I actually gasped when I realised how it was going to end! Even though it was a shock, however, it was completely true to what we’d come to know about Eddie and made perfect sense.
Even at this early stage, The Chalk Man promises to be one of the big hits of 2018 and I would not be surprised if a television or film company picks it up. As I was reading, I was reminded on several occasions of The Five, a Sky TV Drama created by Harlan Coben, and thought it amusing that he was actually name checked in the book!
It is hard to believe that this is the author’s debut novel and I can’t wait to see what she writes next.
With thanks to Penguin UK – Michael Joseph and Net Galley for my ARC.