Anyone who’s seen the hype around this book will know it’s being compared to the work of Stephen King. If I recall correctly, even the great man himself compared it to his own work on Twitter. Point is, it will be the most unoriginal comparison I can make, if I say The Chalk Man is comparable to something that Stephen King might write. Well, apologies, but I’m gonna, for the comparison is apt.
CJ Tudor has written a coming of age story that can easily stand aside the master’s work. In Anderbury, we have a small market town in England, comparable with those King conjures in Maine. In Eddie, Fat Gav, Metal Mickey, Hoppo and Nicky, we have child protagonists the like of which King populates his novels, such as IT. And in the chalk man drawings that sinisterly litter the narrative we have the kind of fiendish motif he might have conjured.
Unlike King’s writing this is a crime novel, rather than horror, but like IT we have child protagonists trying to solve the mystery and plagued by evil. It’s not a straightforward crime novel, this is no police procedural, psychological thriller or serial killer tale. Rather it is both a coming of age story – the narrative is split between alternating chapters set in 1986 when the protagonists are ten, and the present day when they are adults – and chiller/thriller, if that makes sense. Both narrative strands work well, though those chapters set in 1986 are by far the best, the author perfectly encapsulating a child’s eye view and managing to conjure up how it felt to grow up in the 80’s.
What’s the central crime the plot revolves around? I really don’t want to say - albeit the book’s description gives that away, telling the reader that the children find a body. In many ways however, this misses the point. A plethora of crimes, both hinted at and explicit, occur in this story; there are multiple characters who may or may not be involved. I want to resist divulging spoilers because this is a MUST read, a really enjoyable experience; there are twists galore and a really eerie sense of foreboding that seeps from each and every page.
Read this novel. You really won’t regret it.
5 out of 5 stars