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

The Chalk Man

We love supporting debut authors. Congrats, C.J. Tudor, on your first book!
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This is an early release that's only available to our members—the rest of the world has to wait 'til next month to read it.

by C.J. Tudor

Quick take

"A haunting, tightly paced stunner of a debut, one that will keep you guessing all the way through."

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Why I love it

Kristin Iversen

I’ve always felt the best time of year to read murder mysteries is deep in the heart of winter, when the subject matter is as dark as the long nights. The Chalk Man is a brilliant addition for any winter reading list—its twists and turns will keep you on edge, with surprises coming on every page till the very last.

A group of friends who grew up together in a quaint English village are bound by the shared trauma of finding the dismembered body of a young woman in the woods. If you’re thinking that you recognize shades of Stephen King and even Agatha Christie, you’re not wrong—Tudor slyly references these giants of the genre, but still spins a story entirely her own.

The narrative jumps back and forth between the present day and 30 years prior, when the community in which Eddie and his friends grew up is torn asunder by a series of tragedies. It all starts with a horrific accident at a carnival, and accelerates with the arrival of a strange man—a new teacher at the local school—who seems to have an uncanny connection to every bad thing that befalls the town.

But there’s another thing uniting these tragedies—a series of simple stick figure chalk drawings which the friends have been using to communicate with one another. What seemed like a simple enough game soon takes on a life of its own, and the chalk figures are mysteriously utilized in crimes including a brutal beating, vicious bullying, and the cold-blooded murder of the girl in the woods.

Tudor does an expert job at juggling the two timelines, and never veers too far into the kind of nostalgia-induced emotion lesser writers would rely on when portraying a group of scrappy teenage friends coming of age in the 1980s. Rather, what is universal here is the difficulties we all have in figuring out what—and who—to believe in, and whether or not we can trust anything in this world, even our own memories. The Chalk Man, then, is a haunting, tightly paced stunner of a debut, one that will keep you guessing all the way through.

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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.

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Member thoughts

All (5516)
All (5516)
Love (1966)
Like (3001)
Dislike (549)
5658 ratings
  • 35% Love
  • 53% Like
  • 10% Dislike
  • Jersey City, NJ

    This book hooked me from the beginning and allowed me to rip through it quickly. And the ending—the very, very ending after the climax of the story, the very last page—was just…so great.

  • Douglassville, PA

    With the end of every chapter I would tell myself, “maybe I'll read one more”. I simply couldn't put it down and looked forward to reading more everyday. I haven't felt like that for some time.

  • North Branch , MN

    I loved this book but it did start slow. I’ll be honest though, that has more to do with my toddler than the story. If it takes a little bit to “get into it” don’t give up! The ending is CRAZY!

  • Fraser, CO

    I absolutely loved this book. The characters were so interesting and the twists and turns were thought provoking. I couldn’t put this book down. I finished in 2 days! Would recommend to mystery lovers

  • Terry, MS

    This book kept me on my toes. I have two consecutive days off of work a week and in the two days off, I read this book. I couldn’t put it down. It draws you in and leaves you wanting answers so bad.

  • Tuscaloosa, AL

    I loved mysterious & suspense and this was the perfect book to keep me guessing til the end. Eddie’s sarcastic narration and dry wit provided the relief the story needed. 10/10 did not expect the end

  • Libertyville, IL

    This book left me thinking! Ed is so unreliable and I have mixed feelings about him, but I loved that not all the answers were answered. All the characters lives are woven together in unexpected ways.

  • Bowmanstown, PA

    Fantastic story that made me think of Stephen King's "The Body" if it were a full novel (instead of a novella) that finished the story of what happens to the boys as adults. Read in one sitting. Kudos

  • Adrian , MI

    One of the most well written thrillers I've read in a long time. I couldn't believe this was by a debut author, it certainly didn't feel like it. I loved this book, and it's easily a top favorite now.

  • APO, AE

    Oh. My. Gosh. This was so good. I really thought it was going to be a supernatural plot line, but it was so much more than that. Just a great read. Make sure you have time to finish it in one sitting.

  • Clovis, CA

    This was just a book I didn't want to put down. The characters are flawed and believable. The plot sucked me in right at the beginning and gripped me until the very end. I just couldn't stop reading.

  • novato, CA

    Couldn't put this one down! Original, strong plot - consistent and believable until the end. And what an ending. OMG! Loved the bounce between the boys and their older selves used to unfold this story

  • Indianapolis, IN

    This kept me twisting and turning with excitement and anticipation. At one point I thought I had it all figured out and within the last few pages, boom! It all changed with a satisfying unexpected end

  • Klamath Falls, OR

    I love the mystery and twists of the book. I also loved the perspective from Ed & his relationships. I definitely think he is a little morbid in his own way. What an ending for such a book. I loved it

  • Sandwich , MA

    This was my first book. This book was wonderful. I love to read and have been since I skipped catechism and went to the library to hide when I was 8. I loved the back and forth it made the whole book.

  • Joliet, IL

    I truly enjoyed this book. I love two timelines, past to present. I kept finding myself thinking about the characters when I wasn’t reading the book. I can’t wait for another book by this author!

  • WACO, TX

    Such a good book! Reminiscent of Stephen King, without the touch of supernatural. It was gory in places, but the story was absolutely impossible to leave unfinished. The ending was a real shocker too!

  • Laurel , MD

    Its been a long time since a book literally got my heart pounding. The entire book was great... except for the ending which I thought seemed rushed and not well thought out. Wish this book was longer.

  • South Bend , IN

    This book had me in suspense until the END. The last chapter was the absolute best one that had me questioning everything I thought I knew about the narrator. Lets just say that the town has secrets!

  • Acworth , GA

    Great debut novel! I enjoyed reading about the story through two different timelines, though I enjoyed the younger narration of the story. Some strong bullying happens but it just adds to the story!

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