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1986

The Chalk Man by C. J. Tudor

91TOUwUDzNLIt’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.

 

 

Blood of the Rose by Kevin Murray

The year is 1986 and, after receiving a series of threatening letters, a newspaper editor is brutally slaughtered. With little to go on, the police are baffled; their only clue being a rose left near the scene of the crime. The first murder is followed up by a series of equally macabre killings, the carefully placed rose, again, being a clue that the slayings are all linked. Alan Winters, a young Scotland Yard detective, is tasked with finding the murdererer but with Jennifer Chapman, the daughter of the first victim intent on launching her own investigation, will he find the killer before he finds them?

Initially, despite its shocking introduction, I found this book hard to get into as I found it difficult to like any of the main characters. After the second killing, however, I felt that the book took a major turn for the better and the characters began to seem more real and likeable. Setting the book in 1986 was a great idea as whereas nowadays there would be a reliance on forensics and the use of computer databases, the Scotland Yard detectives had to use traditional police legwork to make connections.

As is found in many books of this genre, the story is interspersed with chapters written by the killer, this time in the form of a diary. What is different, however, is that Kevin Murray manages to write the killer’s story in a way that makes you feel empathy towards him – a stark contrast to the feelings you have about him whilst he’s on his killing spree!

Without giving too much away, it becomes obvious where the killer is going to be found but the author succeeds in not making it too easy to discover exactly who it is. The ending tears away at breakneck speed as the guilty party prepares for their final showdown. The slight twist at the end was another clever touch.

This book was received from Urbane Productions and Net Galley in return for an honest review.

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