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Yates, Christopher J - 'Black Chalk'
Hardback: 352 pages (Sep. 2013) Publisher: Harvill Secker ISBN: 1846557275

Oh this book is seriously good. It is good in a "Mess With Your Head And Leave You Feeling Disturbed" kind of way. Perfect. Right up my street and straight into my list of favourites for the year. I finished reading it four days ago and am still thinking about it. If you choose to read just one single book this year, then make it this one. BLACK CHALK is the debut novel of Christopher J Yates; an Englishman who is now living in New York. From a recent interview, I understand that years of hard graft went into this work. And it shows. This man is most definitely a name to watch out for in the future.

The storyline is about a game. A game played by six friends in their first year at Oxford University. Losing rounds in the game means a series of consequences for the players and there is a significant cash prize for the ultimate winner. The consequences start out as fun but pretty soon become far more serious and friendships are lost. Then a life is lost when one goes wrong. But it is only meant to be a game. A game that goes too far. Fourteen years later the remaining players come together again for one final round but, with the stakes as high as they have become and their lives as shattered as they are, you start to wonder just what is left for them to dare each other with now. But don't worry. After all, it is only a game.

So many things about this book make it a superb read: the interesting idea; the way it is written; the cringing empathy you experience as the players go through with their consequences and the growing feeling of foreboding as the game gets closer to ending. If you like to be disturbed by your books then you will love this one. Personally, this is my favourite type of crime fiction and Christopher J Yates is already well up there among my favourite authors.

Extremely Highly Recommended.

Amanda C M Gillies, Scotland
December 2013

Amanda blogs at
Old Dogs and New Tricks.

More European crime fiction reviews can be found on the Reviews page.

last updated 22/03/2014 15:20