I picked up The Chalk Man purely as a result of Stephen King recommending it on twitter after he said If you like my stuff, you'll like this. He isn't wrong. While it has a voice all it's own, The Chalk Man is a perfect accompliment to Kings' work.
It begins in 1986, 12 year old Eddie and his friends meet up as the travelling fair arrives in their town. On this fateful day, during a horrific fair accident, Eddie meets Mr Halloran - the Chalk Man. He gave Eddie the idea for the drawings: a way to leave secret messages for his friends and it was fun, until the chalk men led them to a body.
Thirty years later and Eddie has his life together (mostly), that is until he gets an envelope through the post, containing a stick of chalk and the drawing of a figure.
The Chalk Man is totally engrossing from start to finish. The story moves between the past events and those of the present, each building tension and fear and a real sense of eerie forboding. The author is a master at building up the story piece by piece to create something that is genuinely disturbing, the atmosphere is simply incredible.
I think this is, in part, due to the fact that the author is firmly in the writers camp of "less is more", throughout the book while events are eerie and quite horrific there is always the possibility that these acts are just the work of a derranged mind rather than anything supernatural. For me the actions of man are far more scary than those of a spook.
Each character has their own part to play and each are treated with enough time to be seen as real people rather than two-dimensional caricatures. This extends to the flashbacks with the characters as kids. The author manages to capture the style of the time and the behaviour and expressions of children of the 80's perfectly. While there is clearly a re-surgence of 80's coming-of-age stories (perhaps to a target audience of those who remember those times as kids), The Chalk Man doesn't feel in any way like it's just taking advantage of this popularity - although there are similarities to King's "Losers club".
The murder-mystery style works well and there are enough red-herrings and wrong turns to keep the reader guessing most of the way through. It did take me some time to work out who it was but when you do it's like it was staring you in the face all along.
The Chalk Man is an accomplished novel. It's got bags of atmosphere, a rewarding story and great characters. Perfect for any fan of the horrific.
Written on 6th April 2018 by Ant.
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