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#Bookreview THE CHALK MAN by C. J. Tudor (@cjtudor ‏) A morally ambiguous thriller and a story of tainted friendships that will appeal to readers of King’s It. #crimefiction

Hi all:

I read this book a little while back but I waited until it was published (it was due for publication on the 11th January 2018, so I hope it’s now available) to share it, so you wouldn’t have to wait to read it if you felt as intrigued by it as I was. Well, I won’t make you wait any longer:

The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor
The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor

The Chalk Man: A Novel by C. J. Tudor

A riveting and relentlessly compelling psychological suspense debut that weaves a mystery about a childhood game gone dangerously awry, and will keep readers guessing right up to the shocking ending

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.
Expertly alternating between flashbacks and the present day, The Chalk Man is the very best kind of suspense novel, one where every character is wonderfully fleshed out and compelling, where every mystery has a satisfying payoff, and where the twists will shock even the savviest reader.

Preorder THE book of 2018. The Chalk Man is coming . . .

None of us ever agreed on the exact beginning.

Was it when we started drawing the chalk figures, or when they started to appear on their own?

Was it the terrible accident?

Or when they found the first body?

****

What authors are saying about The Chalk Man

 

‘[I] haven’t had a sleepless night due to a book for a long time. The Chalk Man changed that. Many congrats C. J. Tudor’ Fiona Barton, bestselling author of The Widow

‘What a great book. A twisty thriller and downright creepy ending. 5 stars’ Sarah Pinborough, the bestselling author of Behind Her Eyes

‘Tense, skillful storytelling’ Ali Land, bestselling author of Good Me Bad Me

‘Absolutely brilliant. I was expecting a creepy horror story that I’d have to read with all the lights on but this book is so much more than that – it’s witty, insightful, clever, thoughtful, mysterious, gripping, nostalgic and utterly compelling. Publishers often talk about “an exciting new voice in fiction” and I genuinely think C. J. Tudor is going to be huge. This book has bestseller written all over it and if it doesn’t go to number one I will eat my crime writing hat’ C. L. Taylor, bestselling author ofThe Missing

‘With its driving plot and sensitive evocation of friendship and loneliness, The Chalk Man is an utterly gripping read, with an ending that will make the hairs on the back of your neck bristle’ Karen Perry, bestselling author of Can You Keep a Secret?

‘What an amazing debut! Such an ingenious, original idea. I was engrossed from the very first page. I loved how the 1986 and present day storylines weaved so skilfully together to create that unforgettable and unexpected ending. Compelling, taut and so very, very chilling. This book will haunt you!’ Claire Douglas, bestselling author of Last Seen Alive

‘It’s been a while since I’ve read such an impressive debut.The pace was perfectly judged, the characters superbly drawn and there’s a creeping sense of unease that starts with the prologue and grows throughout the book. And then that ending! It feels so fresh and deserves to be a huge success’ James Oswald, bestselling author of theInspector McLean series

‘Impossible to put down, cleverly constructed and executed’ Ragnar Jonasson, author of the bestselling DarkIceland series

‘Finished reading The Chalk Man by C.J Tudor last night. What a book! Enjoyed every minute of it.A total banger!’ Amy Lloyd, author of The Innocent Wife

‘Kept me up until five in the morning. Wonderfully written. I loved it!’ Kimberley Chambers, bestselling author of Backstabber

“The grip the past has on the present reveals itself in ever more sinister and macabre ways in this utterly original and relentlessly compelling psychological thriller. The Chalk Man kept me guessing all the way to the end” Fiona Neil, bestselling author of The Betrayals

 

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Chalk-Man-C-J-Tudor-ebook/dp/B06XXSVQ9T/

https://www.amazon.com/Chalk-Man-C-J-Tudor-ebook/dp/B06XXSVQ9T/

Author C.J. Tudor
Author C.J. Tudor

About the author

C. J. Tudor was born in Salisbury and grew up in Nottingham, where she still lives with her partner and young daughter.

She left school at sixteen and has had a variety of jobs over the years, including trainee reporter, radio scriptwriter, shop assistant, ad agency copywriter and voiceover.

In the early nineties, she fell into a job as a television presenter for a show on Channel 4 called Moviewatch. Although a terrible presenter, she got to interview acting legends such as Sigourney Weaver, Michael Douglas, Emma Thompson and Robin Williams. She also annoyed Tim Robbins by asking a question about Susan Sarandon’s breasts and was extremely flattered when Robert Downey Junior showed her his chest.

While writing the Chalk Man she ran a dog-walking business, walking over twenty dogs a week as well as looking after her little girl.

She’s been writing since she was a child but only knuckled down to it properly in her thirties. Her English teacher once told her that if she ‘did not become Prime Minister or a best-selling author’ he would be ‘very disappointed.’

The Chalk Man was inspired by a tub of chalks a friend bought for her daughter’s second birthday. One afternoon they drew chalk figures all over the driveway. Later that night she opened the back door to be confronted by weird stick men everywhere. In the dark, they looked incredibly sinister. She called to her partner: ‘These chalk men look really creepy in the dark . . .’

She is never knowingly over-dressed. She has never owned a handbag and the last time she wore heels (twelve years ago) she broke a tooth.

She loves The Killers, Foo Fighters and Frank Turner. Her favourite venue is Rock City.

Her favourite films are Ghostbusters and The Lost Boys. Her favourite authors are Stephen King, Michael Marshall and Harlan Coben.

She is SO glad she was a teenager in the eighties.

She firmly believes that there are no finer meals than takeaway pizza and champagne, or chips with curry sauce after a night out.

Everyone calls her Caz.

https://www.amazon.com/C.-J.-Tudor/e/B074WBT1GL/

My review:

Thanks to NetGalley and to Penguin UK for offering me an ARC copy of this novel that I freely chose to review.

This story, told in two different time frames by Eddie Adams (known as Eddie Munster as a child, because all the friends had nicknames and somehow the Munsters and the Adams became conflated into one…), has all the elements fans of mysteries and thrillers love. Strange characters, plenty of secrets, red herrings and false clues, lies, many suspects, a slightly odd setting, bizarre murders, strange relationships… A murder involving bizarre circumstances (a chopped-up body with a missing head, strange chalk drawings…) took place in a small and picturesque UK city (it sounds small enough to be a town, but as it has a cathedral, it is a city) in 1986 (although there were other strange things that happened at the time too, coincidental or not), and became known as the Chalk-Man murder. Thirty years later someone starts asking questions and stirring things up. Eddie narrates, in the first-person, the events, including his memories of what happened when he was a teenager and also telling us what is happening now. Those of you who read my blog know I have a thing for unreliable narrators, and, well, Eddie is a pretty good one. He is an English high school teacher and seems fairly reliable and factual in his account, and he does a great job of making us feel the emotions and showing us (rather than telling us) the events; although slowly he starts revealing things about himself that make him less standard and boring, and slightly more intriguing. Eddie does not have all the information (it seems that the friends kept plenty of things from each other as children), and sometimes he is unreliable because of the effect of alcohol, and possibly his mental state (his father suffered early dementia and he is concerned that he might be going down the same path). But there are other things at play, although we don’t fully get to know them until the very end.

The story reminded me of Stephen King’s It, most of all because of the two time-frames and of the story of the children’s friendship, although the horror element is not quite as strong (but there are possible ghosts and other mysterious things at play), and the friends and their friendship is more suspect and less open. In some ways, the depiction of the friend’s relationship, and how it changes over time, is more realistic. Of course, here the story is told from Eddie’s point of view, and we share in his likes and dislikes, that are strongly coloured by the events and his personal opinions. The main characters are realistically portrayed (both from a child’s perspective and later from an adult one), complex, and none of them are totally good, or 100% likeable, but they are sympathetic and not intentionally bad or mean (apart from a couple of secondary characters but then… there is a murderer at work). Morality is ambiguous at best, and people do questionable things for reasons that seem fully justified to them at the time, or act without thinking of the consequences with tragic results. I am not sure I felt personally engaged with any of the characters (perhaps because of Eddie’s own doubts), but I liked the dubious nature of the narration, and the fact that there were so many unknowns, so many gaps, and that we follow the process of discovery up-close, although there are things the main character knows that are only revealed very late in the game (although some he seems to have buried and tried hard to forget). The parents, and secondary characters, even when only briefly mentioned, serve the purpose well, add a layer of complexity to the story and are consistent throughout the narration.

The mystery had me engaged, and the pieces fit all together well, even when some of them are not truly part of the puzzle. I can’t say I guessed what had happened, although I was suspicious of everyone and, let’s say I had good reason to be. I liked the ending, not only the resolution of the mystery but what happens to Eddie. If you read it, you’ll know what I mean.

The writing is fluid, it gives the narrator a credible voice, it gets the reader under the character’s skin, and it creates a great sense of place and an eerie atmosphere that will keep readers on alert. The story deals with serious subjects, including child abuse, bullying (and sexual abuse), dementia, and although it is not the most graphically violent story I have read, it does contain vivid descriptions of bodies and crime scenes, and it definitely not a cozy mystery and not for the squeamish reader.

A great new writer, with a very strong voice and great ability to write psychological thrillers, and one I hope to read many more novels by.

Thanks very much to Penguin, NetGalley and the author for the book, thanks to all of you for reading and remember to like, share, comment, click and of course, REVIEW!

Categories
Guest author post

Guest author Teagan Geneviene. Of dreams, cats, writing and lots of magic!

Hi all:

It’s Friday and as you know I like to bring you guest authors and/or new books in this spot. For the last few weeks I’ve brought you the books, and a bit of information, about some of the blogger authors I follow, as I suddenly realised that after exchanging comments on everything (from recipes, to travelling, diets, healthy lifestyle, funny videos, mediums and magic) with them, I had never brought them to my blog and talked about their books. And it was about time.

Today I bring  you Teagan R. Geneviene. I discovered her wonderful writing blog, where readers make suggestions of ingredients, and with her new serial, also magic elements, for each week’s installment, and Teagan delights us with a new chapter every week. Her stories are full of wonderful characters, wit, fun, imagination, and she always finds fabulous illustrations.

We were recently talking about dreams, and what important role they can play both in life and in creativity, and from there came this interview. Here I leave you with Teagan (ah, and the images provided are also her choice!):

Teagan Geneviene
Teagan Geneviene

 

“Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before…”  Edgar Allan Poe

Learn to Dream

If we tried to describe Teagan’s background, the things that made her who she is, it would take much more than an interview.  She joked that the psychiatrist in me could write volumes about it.  Actually, Teagan has made many new beginnings in her life – new volumes (not just new chapters).

“Back then a friend looked at me in amazement and said ‘You don’t mind shaking things up, do you?’  More than 15 years later, she still lives in the same place and works at the same job. I sincerely admire her stability.  But that wasn’t in the cards for me.”

One of those new volumes began when she changed careers.  After a divorce Teagan left low-paying low-level office jobs to become a technical editor. She started at the bottom, earning a Bachelor of Science degree related to information technology (IT).  She wanted a solid foundation to launch her career in technical writing and editing.  Over the years, she carefully plotted that new profession, making sacrifices that most would not consider, and became a successful and well respected technical editor and writer.

Her most recent “volume” was relocating to the east coast of the USA.  Before she moved to her nation’s capital, Washington, DC, her work focused on the combination of IT and healthcare.  However, now her 9 to 5 job has more of an analytical and organizational application.

“It was a way to keep a roof over my head, while still working with what I enjoy most – words.”

During all those years she used her spare time to write fantasy stories and novels, honing her skills as a completely different sort of writer and editor.

Dare to Dream

“A friend in New Mexico once shook her head and said, ‘You’re like an onion. Every time I think I know who you are, I see another new layer!’  I took it as a big compliment.”

Teagan suggested that we give this interview a theme, that of dreams.

I used to be very attuned to all manner of metaphysical things, particularly dreams. However, since I’ve been in DC, I’ve felt very disconnected from all that.

I asked Teagan why that would be, and she described one idea about how each person has different physical reactions to various things. She used her egg allergy as an example. One person might enjoy eggs as a healthful food.  Another might have a problem with the cholesterol, while another might have a horrible allergic reaction.

“Similarly, maybe locations can have different effects on various people.  You might find a place stimulated your interest in everything around you. Another person might feel overwhelmed while in that location, while another feels spiritually disconnected.  That kind of thing.  Sorry.  I enjoy going down these “What If” tangents. We can go back to “dreams” now.”

Atonement, Tennessee by Teagan Geneviene
Atonement, Tennessee by Teagan Geneviene

Teagan told me she wishes to reconnect with that aspect of herself, — with dreams and interpreting them, and with what she callsall sorts of new-agey things.”  Dreams figure into much of Teagan’s writing.  Her debut novel, Atonement, Tennessee, has a couple of scenes where dreams play an important part.  There is even a chapter called “Bras Bed Dreams,” with an antique bed that causes people to have dreams of the past or even past lives.

Brass bed 1

It’s not surprising to me that Teagan dreams of being able to make a living from her novels.  I finally “escaped from psychiatry” so I understand that wish and how hard it is to make it real.

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams…” Eleanor Roosevelt

Writing Dreams

If you could see how animated Teagan gets when she talks about writing, you’d know it really is her dream.  I asked if she ever dreams her imaginative stories, and she didn’t really think so.  However, she often visualizes them and the characters, rather like a daydream.

“All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them…”  Walt Disney

She has a few works in progress, if no time to devote to them.  However, she does find time each week to write an episode of the interactive culinary mystery serial that is featured on her blog, Teagan’s Books.  It’s a 1920’s story, and a big departure from her novels.

Old House_dreamstime_xs_22975594

“I’ve been influenced by several authors, mostly fantasy writers.  However, my debut novel — ‘Atonement, Tennessee’ is different from the quest-type fantasy (as I like to call it) that I usually write.  I call Atonement an urban fantasy with a side order of mystery.  I would never compare my work to someone as talented and successful as Charlaine Harris, but if you like her Sookie Stackhouse books, I think you would like my ‘Atonement’ stories.

Teagan always aspires to work on book-two in the Atonement series, and kicks herself for not managing to do more on it.  Right now it looks like the only way she will be able to finish “Atonement in Bloom” this year is to take a sabbatical from the blog serial.

Mirror

 

Some of the magical artifacts that caused trouble in the first book will be back, including that bras bed I mentioned, and the mirror of truth and justice.  Many of the characters will return, including a “device” she used in book-1 — the cat.  The story is written in first person. So when Teagan needs to tell the reader about something the heroine can’t see, she writes that scene from the point of view of Lilith, the calico cat.

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“The supernatural parts of Atonement are loosely inspired by the ancient myth of Gwydion fab Don.  I bring in additional Celtic myths for the sequel and with it new trouble-making characters.”

So there you have it — the latest “volume” in the story of Teagan and a little about her books too.

Thanks so much to Teagan for her kindness and her great interview and images, thanks to you for reading, and you know what I always say, if you’ve enjoyed it, don’t forget to like, share, comment, and CLICK!

Dog-Cat-Cooking_dreamstime_s_24255835

 

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