The Chalk Man by CJ Tudor

This description of The Chalk Man was what first drew me to C.J Tudor’s debut novel.

‘None of us ever agreed on the exact beginning. Was it when we started drawing the chalk figures, or when they started to appear on their own? Was it the terrible accident? Or when they found the first body?’

C.J. Tudor gets off to a strong start — so much so,  I read the first 30 percent of The Chalk Man in a single sitting.

The idea for The Chalk Man is intriguing and slightly scary.

The story opens when a dismembered body is found in the woods. Schoolboy Eddie Adams is the main narrator. He’s an interesting kid who observes a lot of what is going on around him even if he doesn’t always understand what he sees and hears.

Inspired by something a teacher says, Eddie gets the idea of drawing chalk men as a secret code. He and his friends then begin to use the code to leave messages for each other. They use different colours so as to distinguish who drew which message.

The timeline switches between 1986 and 2016. Apart from the discovery of the dismembered body, other troubling events take pace in 1986. Then, as adults, Eddie and his friends each receive a letter containing a chalk stick figure. The letters scare them for different reasons. Each has secrets from the past and reasons to fear discovery.

The more that I read, the more I found myself wondering about the intended audience of The Chalk Man. It may appeal more to the YA market than to adult readers. I felt the characters didn’t really develop as the story progressed. I found this frustrating, particularly in the second half of the book. More frustrating, though, is that when secrets are revealed, they don’t always live up to the promise of The Chalk Man’s strong opening.

That said, this is a fast read and received some great reviews on Goodreads.

[Disclosure: I read an advance copy via Netgalley]

In a Cottage in the Woods by Cass Green | Review

I really liked how In a Cottage in the Woods opened. Cass Green sets up the story in just a couple of pages.

She introduces a troubled heroine, Neve Carey and a suicidal woman called Isabelle.  Neve meets Isabelle on a bridge and they have a brief conversation just before Isabelle jumps. Although brief, we learn a lot about Neve from this conversation. For one thing, she’s kind enough to stop and help a stranger. She’s also very hard on herself. She questions her own motivations, and thinks that she falls short.  She’s someone who does the right thing when it matters, but she’s also troubled and unhappy. Within just a couple of pages, you get a really strong sense of who she is and why she does what she does.

Believable character

Neve’s a very believable character. There’s a lot going wrong in her life — her relationship has broken up and she’s temporarily staying in sister’s house because she can’t afford to stay anywhere else. Her work is boring and she’s underpaid. Her financial insecurity and emotional unhappiness impact her relationships, stirring up conflict that isolates her from family and friends. This isolation is what makes her the perfect heroine for Cass Green.

Cottage in the Woods

Neve inherits Isabelle’s cottage in the woods when she has hit rock bottom — no home, no relationship, no money, no job. So she has no choice but to move in. The cottage is isolated and creepy, making it an excellent setting for Neve to face her demons. And not all of them are internal. Someone doesn’t want Neve in the cottage.  The question is who? And why?

In a Cottage in the Woods is an entertaining page turner and a fast read. I enjoyed it. If you like the sound of it, you might also like The Woman Next Door.

Disclosure: HarperCollins provided a review copy.

The Break by Marian Keyes 

Marian Keyes takes a wry look at midlife crises in The Break.

The Break by Marian Keyes is the story of how a husband’s midlife crises sparks personal growth in his wife.

Following the death of his father, Hugh decides he wants to find himself. He plans a 6 month break away from home and packs a backpack destined for South East Asia.

News of the proposed ‘break’ comes as shock to his wife, Amy. A PR executive, she has the skills to ‘manage’ perceptions of the break so she steals a march and announces it on social media.  But it undermines her confidence even though she decides not stand in Hugh’s way.

Hugh says he’ll come home once the six months are up but Amy fears that he might not. And, even if he does return, who’s to say that things won’t change in the meantime, So, Amy’s anxious. And having to put on a brave face isn’t as easy as she makes it look.

Marian Keyes meanders a bit too much for my liking and it takes many pages before Hugh, the husband eventually leaves.  Once he’s gone, the pace picks up as Amy learns to cope with her new situation.

This is a chatty novel with lots of online shopping and gossip — not unlike a night out with the girls!

Disclosure: I read an advance review copy via Netgalley.