The story is told in the first person by Eddie (now Ed). He alternates between 1986 when he and his friends were twelve and 2016. His friends Fat Gav (Gavin), Metal Mickey (braces), Hoppo (David Hopkins), and Nicky. Nicky is the one female character in the group and the only one without a nickname. Her father is the local vicar which creates friction with Eddie’s parents back in 1986. Eddie’s dad does freelance and dresses in shorts and “ancient” rock band shirts like The Who and Led Zeppelin. Ed’s mother was a doctor who helped “women in trouble.” It doesn’t take much imagination to figure out how friction develops between the vicar and Ed’s mother and father.
Mr. Halloway, an albino, is the outside character who is new to town. He is an English teacher who paints as a hobby. At the start of the novel, it is he and Ed who save the life of a girl Ed simply calls the Waltzer Girl. She was severely injured when a Waltzer ride fails; her leg is almost torn off and her face is destroyed. Ed and Mr. Holloway become local heroes.
Things, then, jump the Fat Gav’s birthday party where a gift, presumably from Mr. Halloway, becomes key to the story. The gift is colored chalk. The colored chalk is used by Ed and his friends to leave notes at each other’s houses on the sidewalk. They use symbols to represent different meeting places. Each kid has their own color so the writer can be identified. One mysterious set of chalk men lead the boys to the dismembered body of a girl.
In the present, Ed rents a room to Chloe, a young goth girl, who he has a bit of a crush on despite the age difference. The childhood gang has since broken up. Fat Gav now runs the family bar. Mickey is an ad executive who is not really welcomed back, especially by Fat Gav. Mickey does, however, claim he knows who killed the Waltzer Girl but doesn’t have a chance to tell the news because he drowns shortly after meeting with Ed.
The story becomes entangled into suspicions and connections that take the reader on quite a ride. As much of a thriller as a mystery, each new piece of information seems to take the reader farther from resolution instead of closer. Characters big and small all have secrets that are revealed as the plot expands. History is challenged as well as character intentions. The interconnectedness of the characters and the plot is remarkable. Chalk Man is, and the boys would say, an ace of a book and a well written and imagined story.