ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
How do you talk about a suspense novel without giving away the suspense? It's not easy, but our reviewer, Jason Sheehan, is up for the challenge today. He really wants you to know about the book, "Black Chalk," by Christopher Yates, though he doesn't want to say too much.
JASON SHEEHAN, BYLINE: I don't want to say a single thing about this book, not because I don't love it, but because I'd like you to go in knowing nothing about it, just like I did. So I'm going to be uncharacteristically careful not to give away the details here.
"Black Chalk" is about students at Oxford University - five Brits and one American named Chad. Very early on, Chad meets Jolyon and the two of them instantly become best friends. Jolyon has a bar in his flat and good hash. People are drawn to him. People love him. But Chad, poor, shy, awkward Chad, was first. And the two of them - they're inseparable.
In a quiet week at school, Chad and Jolyon begin thinking about a game to liven things up. There'll be cash for the winner, a series of dares and humiliations for those who play poorly, nothing illegal or physically harmful - at least, at first. They gather more players and then the game begins.
Yates splits his story between Oxford in 1990 and New York in 2004. His narrator is a lying drunk. He's medicated, seriously mentally ill. He thinks someone is sneaking into his room and changing the story as he writes it. He says that the game never really ended. Years later, it's still going on.
And that's it, that's all I'm going to say. But trust me because I'm no liar and I'm certainly not drunk right now. This is the smart summer thriller you've been waiting for, that harmful little book that you should be reading tonight - because the game never really ends. It's out there just waiting for you to make the next move.
SIEGEL: The book is, "Black Chalk," by Christopher Yates. It was recommended by Jason Sheehan. His latest novel is, "Tales From The Radiation Age."
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.