Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 11.44.38 AM“The smart summer thriller you’ve been waiting for. The black and harmful little book you want in your carry-on. The novel you should be reading tonight.” WOW — that’s what NPR’s Jason Sheehan says of Christopher Yates debut novel Black Chalk (Macmillan/Picador; OverDrive Sample).

In a review any writer would kill for, Sheehan reports that Yates “writes like he has 30 books behind him; like he’s been doing this so long that lit games and deviltry come to him as natural as breathing… I don’t want to say a word. And not because I don’t love the book (I do, deeply and weirdly), but because I want you to go into it cold, knowing nothing and expecting nothing, like I did. I want you to suck it down in one breath, like a lungful of dark water. For it to hit you the same way it did me: like a sucker punch delivered slowly and with exquisite precision.”

It’s also an IndieNext pick:

In Black Chalk, Yates has taken the traditional novel and tweaked it to create something very special. In Thatcher-era England, six first-year Oxford University students have come together as friends. As they get to know each other, an idea forms and quickly gains traction: they should play a ‘game,’ with the loser facing a consequence. All six agree, and the dares begin as innocuous fun. As time goes on, however, something shifts within the group and the stakes become much higher — even deadly. Fourteen years later, the remaining players meet in New York City to finish the ‘game,’ but what has transpired for them in the interim? And is winning worth the price? A gripping, sinister, and suspenseful read.”—Peggy Elefteriades, R.J. Julia Booksellers, Madison, CT.

Jamie Lubin of The Huffington Post gets in on the game too, saying the novel “reminds me of a Hitchcock film: multiple twists and reveals, the suspenseful IV drip of information Yates doles out to the reader with a master hand, the shadowy yet intense secrets locked inside the characters while they struggle to maintain composure, the ominous atmospheres of Oxford and New York — so seemingly opposite but equally threatening.”

Debut novels can sometimes slip out of mind. The next time a reader asks for a twisty clever thriller and has exhausted the usual suspects, try to remember Black Chalk.

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