Book Review: Black Chalk by Christopher J. Yates – plus, a global giveaway!

blackchalkTitle: 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.

Read the first two chapters of Black Chalk

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.

Good luck!

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14 Responses to Book Review: Black Chalk by Christopher J. Yates – plus, a global giveaway!

  1. Wow, that sounds pretty good. I’d love to read it. I haven’t read a good thriller in a while– I’ve been reading a bunch of golden-era mysteries on my tablet but they’re all re-reads. I love Ngaio Marsh for example.

  2. Hi Books and Movies and enormous thanks for including me on your website. I’m thrilled to hear that you enjoyed Black Chalk. And now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time to go back to working on the second book.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      Mr. Yates – you’re very welcome. I look forward to reading your next book.

  3. anne says:

    This novel sounds captivating. A thriller which was enthralling was Where Memories Lie by Deborah Crombie.

  4. You make this sound so good! I am a little leery of thrillers set in academia as I’ve been disappointed before. This one seems to be getting good buzz though.

    The last stand out thriller I read was The Deepest Secret by Carla Buckley.

  5. Rhonda
    Twitter: rhondareads

    Hi ,best mystery was multi layered. Night Film Marsha Pissell brilliantly done.

  6. Ekaterina says:

    The book sounds amazing! The last mystery/thriller I really liked was a historical one – A Burnable Book by Bruce Holsinger.

  7. JJT says:

    I enjoyed Tatiana by Martin Cruz Smith recently. Great story with a sense of humor.

  8. Anita Yancey says:

    The best thriller or mystery I have read lately is The Killing Woods by Lucy Christopher. The one I am reading right now is Black Out by Lisa Unger. Black Chalk sounds amazing, and I’d love to read it. Thanks for having the giveaway.

  9. Michelle says:

    I always think I’m pretty well-connected to the book world and new releases. Then I see reviews like this and lament that I missed checking out yet another fantastic book in a genre I love. I definitely want to check this one out a bit further since you have such high praise for it!

  10. Sheila (Book JOurney)
    Twitter: bookjourney

    Oh my gosh – I heard about this one and it sounds wonderful! Thanks for the chance to win 🙂

  11. Carol M
    Twitter: CarolAnnM

    The mystery/thriller that I’ve read in a long time is Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin.

  12. Wow, what a rave review! I’m looking forward to reading this book asap.

    Thanks for being on the tour! I’m featuring your review on TLC’s Facebook page today.

  13. Pingback: Christopher J. Yates, author of Black Chalk, on tour April 2014 | TLC Book Tours