Katherine C., October, Reviews, The Authors
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Great Mysterious Confusion

I’m always game for a good thriller or scary story. I think it goes back to why I first started loving to read. I remember watching my cousin devour R.L. Stine’s Fear Street series and telling me how scary it was. I was sure books couldn’t be scary. How could words on paper come close to a scary movie or haunted house? I wasn’t quite Fear Street ready so I started with Goosebumps. To my surprise Welcome to the Dead House was actually scary. Who knew words could have such power?! I know, give me a break, I was young.

Then came Fear Street, all things Mary Higgins Clark, and any good scare I could get my hands on. And that hasn’t changed. C.J. Tudor’s The Chalk Man was exactly what I was in the mood for, especially this time of year. Written by an English, author set in an English town, it tells the story of four young friends— Eddie, Mickey, Hoppo and Fat Gav— and how the horror of one summer haunts their lives. Playing with chalk figures to send each other coded messages, the figures start to appear at sites of sudden violence and crime around the town. Who drew them? What do they have to do with these four friends? And how are they connected? Are they connected?

Most of the time I was utterly confused. In a good way! Usually I can see where a mystery is leading, but Tudor kept the story twisting and turning in such a way that at times I didn’t know which was was up. Just when I thought I knew where the clues were leading something would happen to throw me off course. There was one thing I did see coming. In the first pages of the book the author introduces you to someone taking a trophy from a crime scene and I did predict who that would be. But otherwise, most of it was a thrilling surprise. There was even a little mystery leftover in the end, which I liked.

{SPOILERS} Who was really drawing the chalk men? I have a theory: it was a haunting. The insidious drawings first appear after Sean haunts Eddie from his driveway. So it’s a surreal representation of the town’s evil, embodied in Sean’s spirit that’s creating these chalk men drawings. But I’m not fully convinced that’s the right theory. My husband made the point that Eddie’s grasp on reality is not the best. It’s alluded to more than once that he has gaps in his memory, that he dreams these dreams that feel all too real, or he wakes up one morning with twigs in his hair without an idea why. We know Eddie drew the figures that led to Elisa, could he have drawn the others??

I’d say this book was exactly what I predicted it would be: good. Not great, but good. And entertaining. The pacing was a bit off (took me awhile to get into it) and I felt like I wanted more meat to the characters and the setting. Nor was it all that scary. Gruesome at times, yes, but not scary. Although I really did enjoy how it kept me guessing, and how at any moment the story would turn completely upside down and lead you in a new direction. In this, her debut novel, Tudor’s gift for thrilling writing definitely tells me I should be on the lookout for whatever she writes next.

In fact, Crown Publishing was kind enough to send along an Advance Copy of her second book The Hiding Place (out February 2019)! Check out the review here, it’s not one you wanna miss.

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