Black Chalk by Christopher J. Yates

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One game. Six students. Five survivors. 

In the intimidating surroundings of Oxford University a group of six friends begin to play a game — an elaborate variant on truth or dare, in which the loser of each round has to perform an embarrassing challenge. The eventual winner stood to walk away with a sizable prize, not simply the money that each had contributed to the pot from their student grants, but a substantial sum staked to them by a mysterious campus organisation known as the Game Society, provided that the students agreed to keep both the Game and its sponsorship secret.

But the game quickly assumes a life of its own: the stakes grow higher and the dares more personal, more humiliating, finally evolving into a vicious struggle with unpredictable and tragic results. Now, years later, one player, who believed he had fled the Game long ago, discovers that it is far from over.

We played a game. That’s all. A game. Isn’t that how we teach children the ways of the world? Are we not all supposed to learn early in life how to cope with defeat? But then there were the consequences, the price paid for losing. Ah, the consequences. Yes. We went to far.

Black Chalk is psychological suspense of which I’ve never encountered. First off this is the type of the book that should be enjoyed while drinking hot coffee on a cold rainy day in the most comfortable recliner you can find because you won’t be moving after you start this story and you won’t want to. The story starts as the narrator received a phone call that shakes his world and has to mentally prepare to leave his hermit existence to finish the Game. The story switched between present day and fourteen years ago as the narrator explains the events leading to and the fallout after the invention of the Game. A series of psychological consequences assigned by chance and designed to humiliate the player and increase in degree as players lose. As the story progresses the friendships between the six players are tested and pushed to the absolute limit. “It’s not that type of game” but someone won’t survive. The outcome will astonish you. The characters and their motivations were complex and diverse. The plot was full of twist and every time you think you have something figured out another mind blowing revelation comes out. The book was astounding and the only thing that fell off for me was the way the Game ended. It was too simple and didn’t make sense nor did it follow the attitude and motivations of the character. The ending itself was also wrapped up too neatly for me. However, this is a worthwhile read. I will be looking forward to reading more works from this author. I give it a 4/5 and I recommend it to all those suspense lovers out there.

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