Stop me if you heard this before. Thirty years ago a small group of young friends in a small town in England stumble upon a body and today they killer has come back to terrorize the friends even though they have drifted apart. C.J. Tudor’s debut novel The Chalk Man follows the familiar devices of popular crime fiction – there’s even an albino – and like many of of Tudor’s contemporaries, the book fails to deliver. I forgot to mention that the kids draw stick figures of men on the pavement in chalk to communicate with each other . . . and so does the killer!!! (If only there was a sarcastic font.)
I do have to give a tip of the hat to Tudor for having the audacity to write a few paragraphs about plot holes in TV shows like Doctor Who.
In real life, you don’t get cheats. You don’t get to escape the terrible fate because your sonic screwdriver worked on the same frequency as the Cybermen’s self-destruct button. It didn’t work like that.
I suppose it felt, even though we had an ending, that it wasn’t the right one. It wasn’t a good one. It was an anticlimax. It felt like there should be something more. And there were things that niggled at me. “Plot holes,” I guess you would call them, if you were talking about Doctor Who. Things the writers hoped you wouldn’t notice, but you did. Even at twelve years old. In fact, especially at twelve years old. You’re pretty hot on not being cheated when you’re twelve.
It’s not so much that there are plot holes in The Chalk Man, rather the problem with formulaic books like this is that the author specifically withholds information that the narrator knows so that the reader can be tricked later.
As good of a writer Tudor is, I could not help but be drastically disappointed with one of of the book’s reveals regarding the head of a corpse. If you as a reader do not mind being manipulated then Tudor’s The Chalk Man is the book for you; otherwise give it a hard pass. I hope that Tudor will try a more honest book in the near future, but when the claws of the big 5 publishers have a hold of you that will most likely prove difficult.