Black Chalk – Oxford and New York

Set in Oxford and New York  –



One game

Six students

Five survivors


What a premise for a thriller of a book!?

A game amongst students which starts off harmlessly enough but which escalates to something that no-one could have ever imagined.

Campus life plus peer pressure plus an obsession to win the game provides quite an explosive mix!


Their game starts off with childish dares and humiliations similar to those of any fresher club initiation style pranks, but with the various personalities of those taking part in the game clashing and exploding with tragic and chilling consequences.


To up the stakes, the game is being led and financed by Game Soc – a society which consists of a group of older students. Initially thought of as just the money and weirdness behind the game, it soon becomes clear that theirs is not so much of a backseat role as they would have you believe.

As the stakes rise and the dares become more dangerous and extreme, the student’s personalities change with them. As psychological warfare looms, those involved become sadistic and ruthless as they exploit their growing knowledge of each other via the game and want to do everything to attack the other’s defences.

The settings of Oxford and New York is neatly done as the game takes place in the university and scenes here are often fast and furious and chilling to the extreme. Contrast that with modern day New York where one of the ‘players’ is now living an OCD existence, holed up in an appartment, revealing the true scale of the mind games and mental trauma he has undoubtedly suffered.


An example of the stunning university architecture - New College Oxford Chapel courtesy of Wikipedia
An example of the stunning university architecture – New College Oxford Chapel courtesy of Wikipedia

Oxford is particularly well described and the descriptions of the university architecture and lifestyle is portrayed as if you were there. There is one particularly accurate literary description of the whole place –

“Living in Oxford was like living submerged in an ocean of Oscar Wildes”.

There is not much more I can say without giving away any of the plot and I would have hated to have known anymore than this before I began reading. The academic setting, the memories of fresher’s week and the dual backdrops prove to be an explosive mix.

Something that one of the characters says could be both about the game as well as the novel itself –

‘……the longer you stay in, the more dangerous things become.’

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