Chalk Man, The
This is pretty dazzling debut, especially given all the clunky "just OK" mysteries that litter my house, library history, recommendations and my Read piles. I'll take a mystery no matter what, but it's very nice to get a good one. As I read this, I was reminded repeatedly of less successful (in my eyes) books I've read recently. It does the back and forth from A Time Before to Present Day and back again, which is what apparently must be done in every mystery written this decade, but it didn't irk me the way many others have. Even when we jumped time, the storyline continued through. The past had a lot to do with the present. It wasn't just some device. Or if it was, it was well handled. I also noted that All the Missing Girls has a fair number of surface similarities - both set in small insular towns, involving a circle of friends who have known each other since childhood, cue the lifelong crush, and then there's the biggie -- two murders decades apart. The similarities end there though. First of all, the characters are all original in this book. People we would be led to feel sorry for in other books are strong in this one. People we would like in other books are unlikable in this one. Everyone is very human. Nobody is a cardboard cutout. And there are some nice twisty bits that require actual attention because you haven't read them a thousand times before.
Every time I thought I was onto a clue, I was dead wrong. Twist after twist, we're kept slightly off balance by a narrator who drinks too much and is a bit of a curmudgeon in everyman clothes. Maybe because I woke up early and read in the dark, but the whole book feels spooky and yet on the surface it all seems so normal. It's never good when things seem normal. I know this, so maybe I added to the spooky factor.
I can't tell you the plot. If you want to know, there's a summary at the top of the book's page, but if I tell it, I'll give something away. Again, this is not a book anyone MUST read. But if you're looking for a good mystery that was released recently, this is the best "everyone's talking about it" book I've read in a while.