Title: Black Chalk
Author: Christopher J. Yates
Genre: Psychological thriller
Publisher: Harvill Secker
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: Review copy from the publisher for tour with TLC Book Tours
Number of pages: 343
First line: He phones early.
Goodreads blurb: One game. Six students. Five survivors.
It was only ever meant to be a game.
A game of consequences, of silly forfeits, childish dares. A game to be played by six best friends in their first year at Oxford University. But then the game changed: the stakes grew higher and the dares more personal, more humiliating, finally evolving into a vicious struggle with unpredictable and tragic results.
Now, fourteen years later, the remaining players must meet again for the final round.
Wow. This book is quite the wild ride. I love psychological thrillers, love books set in the world of academia (especially in England), and I adore unreliable narrators when they are written well. Black Chalk has all of these elements in spades, and I simply couldn’t read fast enough. There are twists and turns that, for the most part, I didn’t see coming, and I was kept guessing right until the end.
While there are six friends involved in The Game, there are really two main characters: Jolyon and Chad. Because I don’t want to give away any of the delicious twisty-ness, I will just say that they are both fascinating, and the reader is never quite sure, until the very end, which one is the best player, the more powerful. Both of them have mysterious motives for playing the game, and their friendship is disturbing and dysfunctional in a way that makes for terrific fiction.
I do have one slight issue, though, that kept me from giving this book an unequivocal five-star rating, and that is the female characters. Compared to Jolyon and Chad, the two female participants in The Game are not as fleshed out and real, making them weaker players as well as characters. In fact, I am realizing that they didn’t stick with me at all, as I can’t remember their names without paging through my copy of the book.
That really is a minor quibble, though, about a book that makes for a completely engrossing and disconcerting-in-a-good-way read. I can’t wait to see what Yates comes up with next.
I am so excited about to have a copy of Black Chalk to give away to one of my readers – and this one is open to all readers, worldwide! Here are the details:
~ To enter, please leave me a comment and tell me about the best thriller or mystery you’ve read lately.
~ One entry per person, please.
~ All entries must be received by 11:59 p.m. PST, Friday April 11, 2014.