This book felt very familiar. If you grew up reading King and watching many an 80’s movie, you’ll no doubt feel the same way. It has a beautiful sense of place and a slow sense of creeping dread but there wasn’t anything totally new here and by the end I was beginning to just wish it would hurry up and spill all of its secrets.
I listened on audio and the narrator was good with the voices but I really and truly wish that two of the characters weren’t named Nicky and Mickie. Maybe a Nicky and a Peter? Or a Robin and a Mickie, perhaps? This made for so much confusion for me on audio. I’m not sure if it was the light accent of the narrator or the similarity of the names, or both, but it kept tripping me up and that's never a fun experience.
The story is presented in two timelines. There’s present day Ed in 2016 and there’s young Eddie in 1980-something. The 80’s timeline is when most of the strange and terrible stuff happens as young Eddie comes of age with a group of his closest chums. The book bounces back and forth between the two timelines as grown up Ed tries to solve a decades old murder after a letter arrives with ominous chalk drawings and an old frenemy arrives soon after. Information is doled out very slowly in both timelines but eventually it all begins to come together. And that’s all I’m saying about the plot because this is a mystery-thriller, people, and a thriller should never be spoiled! But that doesn't mean that I'm done yapping.
So, current day Ed is a bit of a dullard, if you ask me. He is dry and rather unemotional and he's telling the story. He’s a grown man living with a young lady named Chloe but there’s nothing sexual going on there so don't get too excited. I’m kind of glad about that on one hand but if I’m being totally honest a little sexy time might’ve perked things up or added some real tension but alas it’s all pretty sexless. Their relationship made no sense to me until the reveals started coming much later in the book. But for most of the story they interacted with some weird sort of passive-aggressive tension that made me a little uncomfortable for them.
Young Eddie’s story was more interesting to me, even though he has the same personality as older Ed, because Eddie witnesses some pretty awful things but alas none of them are supernatural even though there are little teases strewn about so don't get too excited about that either.
As a mystery-thriller The Chalk Man worked for me because I am terrible at figuring these things out and this one fooled me and kept me going until the end because I HAD to know. My main complaint about the book is with the people and the complete lack of humor. They weren’t people I ever grew to care about. Even the kids. They’re a group of angry, dull, unlikable kids and I didn’t feel their connection to each other. They didn’t seem like a close-knit group to me and that’s where the book fell down hard. In the beginning, I had high hopes but perhaps they were too high. There’s a dog in a few scenes that I loved more than everyone combined and he has no dialogue and only a scene or two. That probably says too much about me but there it is . . .
But, oooh, you have to read until the very end because the final dark surprise was fabulous!
I’m giving this a 3 ½ bumping down to a 3.