By C. J. Tudor
Published January 9th 2018
Rating: 3/5 leafs
Synopsis from Goodreads
In 1986, Eddie and his friends are just kids on the verge of adolescence. They spend their days biking around their sleepy English village and looking for any taste of excitement they can get. The chalk men are their secret code: little chalk stick figures they leave for one another as messages only they can understand. But then a mysterious chalk man leads them right to a dismembered body, and nothing is ever the same.
In 2016, Eddie is fully grown and thinks he’s put his past behind him, but then he gets a letter in the mail containing a single chalk stick figure. When it turns out that his friends got the same message, they think it could be a prank–until one of them turns up dead. That’s when Eddie realizes that saving himself means finally figuring out what really happened all those years ago.
I got this book through my Book of the Month Club subscription box and was very much looking forward to it. They claimed it was for fans of Stranger Things which was too tantalizing a comparison to pass up. However it fell far from expectation. This book is lacking any of the light that Stranger Things always manages to keep even if the subject matter is dark. The friends always help each other and only do dangerous things to find out what happened to their friend. I didn’t see that in this book.
What To Expect
This is one aspect of the book that I thought was really well done! I did not prefer one timeline or the other because both had interesting elements that kept me hooked. Both 1986 Eddie and 2016 Eddie had secrets that they uncovered/revealed as the story progressed. C. J. Tudor kept each section tense and cut it off at just the right moment. Every time I saw that the narrative was switching timelines in my reading, I was disappointed because it had just gotten to a tense point. Then I would remember that the other perspective had also ended at a really interesting revelation and would continue reading.
The Chalk Men
Eddie and his friends draw stick figures with chalk to communicate with each other when they are young. Seeing this innocent activity turned into something malevolent was really interesting. It reminds me of the clown in It. These innocent things from childhood are used for scaring people and it’s hard to look away.
The tone of the book is unsettling and the reader can tell that every word that Eddie speaks brings you closer to the truth of what’s happening in the present of the novel and 1986.
Eddie himself also adds to this unsettling atmosphere. He always seems like he’s hiding something, maybe even from himself. He has very vivid dreams and often wakes up in places far from where he fell asleep. This causes the reader to question whether he is telling the truth. It also throws him into suspicion.
Highlight to see. SPOILERS
I felt like Eddie is very passive. Things in the book kind of just happen to him and he stumbles along trying to understand it. He is very reactive rather than taking any action. I can understand this in the 1986 version because he is a child but it is the same in the 2016. Perhaps this is because he has never really gotten over the trauma but I found it unexciting.
I have found in British mysteries that instead of focusing on the mystery, they tend to rely on analyzing the character. This isn’t a bad thing but it tends to leave the big reveal of the mystery anticlimactic because the story isn’t about the mystery, it is about what this mystery has done to the character.
I felt like the choice to have the vicar be the murderer was lame. He was bad from the beginning for how he treated Eddie’s mom and the young girl he impregnated and then he was the culprit for the final mystery. It felt too tidy for me. It all wrapped up that the other bad things that happened were an accident and the vicar was our singular bad guy. The big shock of the reveal was dulled because the reader already thought he was bad.
Let’s chat! Have you read this book? What British thrillers have you liked because I’m not having very good luck reading those. Have you found a book comparable to Stranger Things? If so, let me know in the comments!
Thanks for reading!