Chalkman by C.J. Tudor

12:34:00 AM

             The Chalkman by C.J Tudor was one of the most hyped books of 2018. Had read much about this debut work by Tudor and was quite excited to grab a copy.I must confess that the book did meet my expectations to an extend. Set in the small town of Anderbury, a fictional town in England, Chalkman is a decent weekend read but with a confusing ending! 
          The story is set in two time frames, 1986 and 2016. Ed, Fat Gav, hoppo, Nickey are a gang who spend their time fooling around. One of them receive a box of chalks as a birthday gift and soon they devise secret codes to communicate between themselves. But little did they realize that this sweet little game of them was going to land them in big trouble!
          It's 2016, thirty years have passed and Ed is now a school teacher. When Ed receives a letter reminding him of the 'Chalkman',he figures out that nothing is over yet and he has to find out who killed the 'Waltz girl' all those years ago!
          While I was reading this book, I was reminded (on more than one occassion) of Joel Dicker's Baltimore boys and Stephen King's iconic 'IT' which also delt with  childhood gangs and their sinister secrets. Infact, the narrative and plot structure of 'The Chalkman'  (which alternates between two time frames) are also pretty much similar.
         Tudor's debut work is a pretty easy read. There aren't too many characters the most striking one being, Mr Halloran. This character could have been better etched out though.Though his entry does manage to elicit dread and fear, it fizzles out soon.This one is a pretty violent work with gory deaths and bizarre imageries, the scene depicting the Waltz girl's (Elisa) death being a typical case in point.The 'spookiness' quotient is also quite high.The parallel's drawn between Ed's father's condition and that of Hoppo's mother has been quite competently done.
           The basic theme of cryptic messages indicating something sinister/ a harmless children's game ending up in something gruesome is not new. Infact it has been explored before (Want to Play? by P.J. Tracy , works by Stephen King to name a few) by even experienced authors.The childhood timeline in 'Chalkman' is heavily inspired by Stephen King's 'IT' ,I guess! But still ,what makes 'Chalkman' interesting is it's layered narrative and compelling situations which infact gets the reader hooked into it. Even though there are multiple twists happening in both the time frames, the author has succeeded in not confusing the reader ( and thereby losing track of the events) for the most part. But where Tudor's writing falters heavily is towards the last twenty pages of the book.
          The biggest weak point of the book is it's climax. It is a big mess and reads like a hastily written first draft. Honestly, I was not that surprised when the big reveal about Eddy was made (but what was the whole point about that 'big reveal'?Was he suffering from a medical condition? Or was it a plain case of Kleptomania?But then ,how do you explain the bouts of strange dreams Eddy was experiencing every now and then?).There are far too many loose ends and quite an implausible climactic twist.

Why did the villain wait all these years to attack them? 
Was he faking his concussion?
Who was the one who was drawing the chalkmen? Was it Nicky?

         The recurrent (lucid) dream sequences involving Eddy was also quite boring and repetitive after a point. As I mentioned before, some of the other twists were also quite unbelievable. It's quite startling that noone  bothered to find out the truth behind the attack on Reverend Martin.Likewise, Fat Gav's accident (and the events leading to it), Mickey's murder was also not looked upon by the investigators seriously.
          Well, for those of you who are too lazy to read the whole review which I have written and have just scrolled down to see the verdict/bottomline, let me quote Fat Gav (from the book) - this one is definitely not a pile of stinking Buckaroo! There are many good things about this book, it's (though a bit formulaic)  an engaging work for the most part, but has a grossly underwhelming and confusing climax. I am giving it a 2.9 out of 5 

-nikhimenon

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