Reviews

Review: The Whisper Man by Alex North

41940236SYNOPSIS:

After the sudden death of his wife, Tom Kennedy believes a fresh start will help him and his young son Jake heal. A new beginning, a new house, a new town. Featherbank.

But the town has a dark past. Twenty years ago, a serial killer abducted and murdered five residents. Until Frank Carter was finally caught, he was nicknamed “The Whisper Man,” for he would lure his victims out by whispering at their windows at night.

Just as Tom and Jake settle into their new home, a young boy vanishes. His disappearance bears an unnerving resemblance to Frank Carter’s crimes, reigniting old rumors that he preyed with an accomplice. Now, detectives Amanda Beck and Pete Willis must find the boy before it is too late, even if that means Pete has to revisit his great foe in prison: The Whisper Man.

And then Jake begins acting strangely. He hears a whispering at his window…


RATING: ☆★☆

The experience of reading this book is like falling asleep in the passenger seat of a car and startling awake with a shuddering jolt of fear, a cold window pressing hard against your cheek, a cool prickle at the base of your neck, an unfamiliar, impenetrable darkness outside—and the wrongness of it all hanging in the air like the sour clang of a bell. Where are you? Here, trapped in a book with unknowable terrors moving in subtly like dark air before a thunderstorm.

And all of them are dogging Tom Kennedy’s heels.

Tom’s life had bent to a wretched avenue when his wife died, and he sunk to the darkest depths of a scattered, aimless mourning. It was grief on top of deep weariness, and he feared he would snap like bowstrings. But his son’s—Jake’s—face would not let the threads unwound. Their relationship was like a flag, fragile on the wind, and they merely maneuvered around each other every day, as if the other were an awkward lamp or a misplaced vase. Clawing desperately at a fresh start, Tom moves with his son into the small town of Featherbank, but they’re soon lunged into a slow-mo nightmare.

Featherbank’s past seems to have stored up violence like a battery, and when a boy goes missing, it comes surging back with vengeance. An ominous song that the townsfolk traded like coin spoke of The Whisper Man—Featherbank’s most notorious serial killer who lured his young victims away from their homes by whispering at their windows. But Frank Carter is locked away in prison—detective Peter Willis made sure of that—though rumors of him having had an accomplice were never put to bed.

When Jake starts acting strangely, Tom can’t escape the feeling of having always been on a collision course with this place and this monster, but that old rage rises in him, the one that swore it would burn down the world before he let any harm come to his son.

“If you leave a door half open, soon you’ll hear the whispers spoken.
If you play outside alone, soon you won’t be going home.
If your window’s left unlatched, you’ll hear him tapping at the glass.
If you’re lonely, sad, and blue, the Whisper Man will come for you.”

North’s uncluttered, crisp prose helps push the narrative at a brisk pace, and though the mechanics of the plot sometimes seem to grind and stall and the final reveal does not pack as much rattling energy as one would hope, the emotional terrain of the book remains clear and compelling. I was fully invested and never bored. Fear knotted my throat, and apprehension pulled me along like a child who had hold of my sleeve. I became acutely aware, with every page-turn, of a quietly encroaching eventuality and it made me want to scuttle under the covers like a frightened squid. A strange darkening slinking slowly forward like a cat across the lawn, as the novel marches with cool, classical inevitability toward its terrible conclusion. If you’re paying attention, you may figure who the monster is; the clues are there all along and the author puts them together in a clever way.

The torn-open stomach of parenthood—and the anxieties that abound within it—have been fodder for fiction for years. With The Whisper Man, North joins the conversation in a quietly powerful way.

Tom’s undimmed love for his son is a lantern glow in the center of the story—a bright spot like a firefly guiding the way forward—and it gladdens my heart to think of it. When Tom had lost his wife, he’d thought he’d lost sight of any landmark that might have led his small family someplace happier. The thought of letting his son down, of not being good enough of a parent, gave him such continual anguish. It came to him obtrusively, obsessively, always with a painful shock, and he’d felt the terrible truth of it in the seemingly unbridgeable distance between them—the impassable distance between a father and son even when they were within arm’s reach of each other. But when a threat to his son’s life bathed him in the furnace heat of a menace as unforgiving as a wildfire, the bedrock atrocity of his insecurities dwindled to ember and ash, driven out by a love so caustic it seared every nerve. Their relationship might be damaged and eroded but it was not destroyed. They’ll jigsaw the jangled, broken thing it became, until it fit itself back together and begin, perhaps, to mend.

A solid read!

One thought on “Review: The Whisper Man by Alex North

  1. Aww dang. I’ll adjust my expectations for this one. I only got it so I could finally cancel my BOTM subscription.

    Like

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