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Black Chalk Kindle Edition

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Length: 356 pages Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Arriving for classes at Oxford, a nervous American reaches out to a poor British student, and the two quickly become inseparable. During their first few days of settling in, the two invite four other friends to join them in a game of chance and daring with an enticing cash prize for the ultimate winner. Over many weeks of play, though, what began as a fun diversion escalates into a highly competitive contest with increasingly intolerable consequences. Before the school year is over, one of the friends is dead, and only two remain in the game, locked in a struggle to the bitter end. Though granted a 14-year respite, the time finally arrives for these two to resume play and determine a final winner and loser. While mysterious and unspoken threats lurk in the shadows, it’s the insidious devolving of friends and lovers that makes this psychological thriller so compelling. A broken narrative and careful pacing add to the chilling suspense. Full of cunning twists and turns, this intense page-turner practically demands a second reading. --Cortney Ophoff


"Narrated by an unhinged recluse, Black Chalk grabs from the get-go... Yates, a crossword-puzzle editor, plots with tantalizing skill." (People)

"Psychological thrillers don't get much more complex or twisted than Yates's promising debut. Yates deftly interweaves past and present as he doles out the backstory in pieces without sacrificing plausible character development." (Publishers Weekly starred review)

With this dark, sometimes disturbing tale, we may have found a new Stephen King, albeit with a British accent." (New York Post)

"Dark, twisty fun." (New York Daily News)

"An inventive and intricate psychological puzzle thriller that mystifies, torments, disturbs, beguiles... A powerfully intelligent debut" (The Times of London)

"What starts as almost idyllic recollections of making new friends in the famous halls of knowledge quickly turns sexy, then dark and brutal... Black Chalk is written with dark poetry; and though driven by dangerous desires, its characters are human, fresh, and alive." (Interview)

"Yates weaves his plotlines back and forth across time so alert readers can stay hot on his mystery trail (and if you're particularly good, you can guess the answer just a page or two before it's given to you)." (Huffington Post)

"Compelling" (The Guardian)

"Laced with convincing student dialogue this is a thriller, a cautionary tale and a sobering exploration of unintended consequences rolled into one." (Daily Mail)

"More twists and turns than a modern roller coaster." (New York Journal of Books)

"Yates' British take on the collegiate gothic thriller lives up to early comparisons to Donna Tartt's The Secret History... Filled with a gleeful malevolence." (Grazia)

Product Details

  • File Size: 1946 KB
  • Print Length: 356 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1250075556
  • Publisher: Vintage Digital (September 19, 2013)
  • Publication Date: September 19, 2013
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099581620
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099581628
  • ASIN: B00CZ7OC28
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #123,589 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Christopher J. Yates was born and raised in Kent and studied law at Oxford University before working as a puzzle editor in London. He now lives in New York City with his wife and dog. 'Black Chalk' is his debut novel.

You can read his blog posts on his website at:

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 27 people found the following review helpful By inb on October 2, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I can't recall the last time a book has so thoroughly dismantled my schedule. I couldn't work, errands were indefinitely postponed, someone must have fed my child—I simply couldn't put the book down.

The tale is so plausible. The characters? True people. Having gone to a boarding school, I felt like I could be a bystander within the story.

Now that I've finished, I am beginning to re-read. So many bits of nuance and layers of detail that I'm already wrapped in again!
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Liz Wilkins TOP 1000 REVIEWER on September 19, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
One game. Six students. Five survivors.

At University, six friends come together and play a game. Its a silly little game imagined by two of their number - a game of actions followed by consequences growing ever more intricate in nature...with one winner to remain standing at the end. Fun. Oh yes. Or no. As the game becomes ever more involved, the stakes higher, the opponents becoming ever more competitive and adversarial, friendships will be destroyed and tragedy will strike. Watched over by the ever mysterious Game Soc, the players are pushed to their limits....just how far will they go and how much of their future will they sacrifice?

This story will sink into your subconcious.....written in a clever and compelling way the lines between fantasy and reality blur and you will never be quite sure where you are. The game itself is brilliantly imagined - it seems so innocuous and yet its insidious...when is the game being played exactly...and just how serious will the consequences be?

Another extremely clever aspect of this novel for me, is the way that the usual "twists" you would be expecting to come at the end, or as game changers somewhere in the middle are all over the place and intricately placed. In a way this is very much a character driven novel...Jolyon stands out as perhaps one of the most enthralling and unusual characters you will find in fiction - and the rest of the students in their own way are just as fascinating. Any one of them can walk away at any moment...but will they? Psychologically speaking they are all captivating - are any of them quite as they appear? Its very cunning writing...Insidious indeed.

As a mystery, it works on several levels. It will keep you guessing but not about the usual things perhaps.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Shawn M. Pettit on August 29, 2015
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Picked this up after the NPR review and was eager to start based upon the praise. The characters were all one-dimensional, and the plot, while suspenseful, felt very predictable and un-important. It was a very quick and easy read, and was not fulfilling at all. I found it funny and implausible when one character was caught looking at Asian themed pornography, he was shunned and considered by the student body to be a racist. Really? I would classify it as a 'tween' summer suspense. I will have to give second thought from NPR book suggestions in the future. I picked up Donna Tart's 'The Secret History' upon another reviewers suggestion, and am loving it much more. Similar in that it is a suspense based around a group of college friends, but it is written very well. Pass on Black Chalk, and check out The Secret History.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Sarah's Book Shelves on April 23, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
Black Chalk joins The Wife, The Maid, and The Mistress as one of my favorite books I’ve read this year…and I will be including it to my Best Books of 2014 List at the end of the year.

Hmm – how to best describe this book (other than AWESOME!)? Think The Hunger Games meets The Secret History meets The Interestings. Though various elements of the story remind me of these books (all of which I loved), the overall combination is unlike anything I’ve ever read. The way the six friends get together at the beginning of the story – and particularly the intangible “intrigue” that attract them to each other – reminds me of The Interestings. The theme of a tight group of University friends doing some creepy, secret stuff reminds me of The Secret History. And, the game itself reminds me of a psychological version of The Hunger Games. Add in some smart social commentary and you have a winner!

Yates masterfully times the build-up to various critical revelations at perfect points throughout the book. You find out the answer to one big question and he is immediately onto the build-up to the next one. Yates’ background working in puzzle magazines (who knew such a thing even existed?!) probably contributed to his ability to weave this complicated web of strengths, weaknesses, secrets, allegiances, and betrayals in a way that seems so seamless to the reader.

The book opens with alternating segments of the six friends meeting and forming the idea for their Game and of one of the players (who has become a recluse) writing about the Game 14 years later. This player has been alerted that it is now, after 14 years, time to play the final that seems to terrorize him. And, here you have your first mystery…who is the recluse?
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Michael Riskin on September 12, 2015
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I will preface this review by stating that I am a subscriber and believer in NPR. It was there that I first heard a strong review for this book, particularly as a beach read. As I find myself spending most of the summer in Rehoboth Beach and reading a lot, I immediately ordered this book. I finished the book yesterday with a feeling of emptiness and existential guilt (wasted time). At best this book is clever; however there is zero in the way of literary substance. Plot and particularly characters feel so unreal against the backdrop of the author's total inability to capture the joy, the angst, and the mystique of late adolescence and young adulthood. The ending is mediocre and forced. There is some value to cleverness, but here all it does is further obfusicate any chance of this being a meaningful novel
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