After recently loving C.J. Tudor’s new short story collection A Sliver of Darkness, I decided to listen to her debut book The Chalk Man on audio. She has now vaulted to my top 5 horror writers!
Eddie and his four friends are typical young teens in an English village in 1986 when a day at the fair changes all their lives forever. A piece of ride equipment falls off and maims a young woman standing nearby Eddie, so a new teacher and Eddie provide first aid until the paramedics arrive. His connection with the albino teacher (cruelly nicknamed the Chalk Man by his students) sets off a chain reaction of events that is still reverberating thirty years later.
The book alternates between the modern day when Eddie is a bachelor teacher, still living in his childhood home and teaching at the school he had attended years ago. Still friends with two of his chums, two had moved away, when one of these friends comes back to meet up with Eddie for dinner. When this friend turns up dead afterward, and strange chalk man drawings are found, Eddie reminisces about that pivotal summer thirty years earlier when other deaths occured.
As the book progresses you learn more about that summer after the fair, as the friendship between the five begins to splinter, and how one of them is involved in a scandal concerning their father who is vicar of the local church. Eddie’s parents tie into that as do others in their small town. Some details aren’t fully connected until 2016, as their lives have braided together in unhealthy and complicit ways. What you might assume is a supernatural story, becomes more realistic as you see everyone was somehow involved, without anyone person knowing the full truth of what was going on with the others.
A nasty little twist is revealed in the concluding pages, not truly changing the secrets revealed earlier, but putting a gruesome bow on Eddie’s story. This story, plus the short story collection I read earlier this month, make me want to seek out even more books by Tudor!