Publication Date: January 9, 2018
30 years ago, Eddie and his friends passed their summer days by drawing chalk figures as secret messages for each other. After all, it seemed fitting when they thought about all that had already happened in their town.
Now, someone is sending pieces of chalk to everyone and drudging up memories that should stay buried. When one of them turns up dead, it becomes a race to find the sender and solve an old childhood mystery.
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Date Read: December 27, 2018
When this came out, I heard great things about it. People were calling it one of the best thrillers of the year already, and I jumped at the chance to get it when I saw that it was on sale.
I decided to pick this up near the end of the year because I knew that it would be a quick read for me. I had no idea that this was told in two different timelines, the past and the present. But having the different timelines helped me understand the mystery better, and it helped me get a better sense of the characters.
The mystery was pretty straightforward and I caught on easily enough. I liked that I was getting to hear about it from the past, when the mystery began, and the present, when it was starting back up. What makes the mystery interesting is that there are so many other things happening in the town that may or may not be connected, and they affect everyone in the story in a huge way.
As far as the writing style goes, it was pretty good. The author did a good job of writing from the voice of a young boy who was still trying to understand the world. I could tell the difference between young Eddie and current Eddie, which was really nice. Sometimes, when books are told in the past and present timelines of the same character, it can be hard to tell the times apart because there isn't a change in voice. But the writing style here worked to create a difference in voice and also to create suspense as the story continued.
I understand the pacing of the story was meant to create more mystery and suspense, but sometimes the chapters dragged a bit. It happened more in the chapters that took place in the present day, as Eddie seemed a bit slow in picking up on things that felt kind of obvious. It was understandable that we needed to build to something big, but for a book that was only 280 pages, it felt like each page should be moving faster toward the climax.
One thing that I really appreciated is that this book doesn't have any kind of romance. Often times, no matter what kind of mystery it is, there's some kind of romance. I like it when the book focuses solely on the mystery because it keeps the plot from getting muddled with something to solve and two people to worry about. It also saves the inevitable complication that someone would get hurt because someone else cared about them romantically.
The end of the mystery felt okay. I was kind of let down by the reveal, and I had predicted something that I think was supposed to be a surprise. The surprise felt really obvious to me, and I don't think it was a huge deal that we suddenly knew about it. I had wanted something more climatic for the end of the book, but it was a good enough ending that I only took away one star. Still, I felt like more effort could have been put into creating a more surprising end.
In the end, I understood why people were so excited about this when it came out, but I was kind of let down. I don't think it's one of the best mysteries of 2018, but I do see the appeal it has and the buzz it created. While it's probably not something that I'm going to re-read soon, I am interested in picking up the author's next book, which is coming out at the end of February 2019.
For the most part, Eddie was a likable enough character. He was interesting as a kid, but fell a bit into the stereotyped "older man with a potential drinking problem" when he was an adult. I did like his curiosity and the way that he focused on solving the mystery. Whether or not he wanted to as an adult, it was the kid in him who wanted to get to the bottom of one of the biggest tragedies in his town.
I did like his friends, especially Gav and Hoppo. Mickey was the most annoying out of them, but it was kind of understandable when you got to know him more. It didn't excuse the way he acted, but it wasn't for no reason either. Gav and Hoppo were those friends who remained friends even 30 years later, making them a solid duo to have in the story. I wished that Nicky played a bigger role in the story because I would have liked to see a girl be a more prominent part of the group. She was a great addition to the story, it's just that she didn't appear as often as I wanted her to.
4 stars. It's pretty good for a book of its length. I would recommend it cause the mystery is well-written. There are a couple of things near the end that take more focus, but it's good. I'm looking forward to seeing what the author's next book is like.