This is one of those debuts when you feel this can’t be a first book, Tudor must have a few books under her belt for this novel to feel so assured, so controlled… but, a debut this is and a fine one at that!
The chapters alternate between 2016 and 1986, the latter being the most fascinating as Tudor strikes exactly the right cord with the time, place and most importantly, the gang of kids who are caught up in the weird adult world of affairs, rape, deaths and ultimately a gruesome murder. Although I never encountered anything like Eddie and his gang, his emotions and the bond between the five continually brought back memories of my own childhood in a gang who always haunted the local playground. There is also a sense of innocence being corrupted, the young taken advantage of by their elders, kids thinking they’re adults when not realising they are being manipulated. Amongst all this, Tudor cleverly deals with memory, the loss of it and how recollections of our childhood can sometimes lead to us realising as adults, that everything wasn’t as rosy at the time.
There are so many strands to this wonderfully weird and macabre tale. Nobody is really an innocent here; everyone has their guilty secret however big or small. It is all bubbling under the surface, the truth seems that little bit distorted, just a fraction out of grasp. Tudor keeps control on all of this as if an old hand at the art of writing. There are obvious nods to crime fiction with the victim having the name of a very famous crime writer!
‘The Chalk Man’ shows incipient horror that death and murder can have on an informative mind. All this is intensified by the mysterious drawings of chalk men around the town. Tudor’s ending brings everything together, but leaves one last nod to the fragility of memory and the mind. This is only the beginning of 2018, and already ‘The Chalk Man’ sets the benchmark at a very high level. I expect great things of Tudor and will definitely be taking up her next book with relish!