The Whisper Man: Creepy, atmospheric and entirely engrossing

The Whisper Man book review

What is this about: A deceptively simply blurb below hides a complex tale about fathers and their sons, parents and their fears and how we are and are not our parents’ children.

What else is this about?: Creepy, delicious atmosphere. And also emotionally complex relationships.

Blurb

If you leave a door half-open, soon you’ll hear the whispers spoken…

Still devastated after the loss of his wife, Tom Kennedy and his young son Jake move to the sleepy village of Featherbank, looking for a fresh start.

But Featherbank has a dark past. Fifteen years ago a twisted serial killer abducted and murdered five young boys. Until he was finally caught, the killer was known as ‘The Whisper Man’.

Of course, an old crime need not trouble Tom and Jake as they try to settle in to their new home. Except that now another boy has gone missing. And then Jake begins acting strangely.

He says he hears a whispering at his window…

The blurb for The Whisper Man is absolutely correct and still deceptive in what the book actually holds.

Tom and Jake move to a little village where Tom hopes for not so much a new beginning, but something better for himself and Jake in the wake of his wife’s death — Rebecca.

Jake is a sensitive kid, the kind that you would find drawing in class while everyone else is playing. Tom on the other hand doesn’t quite know how to respond to Jake. It’s as if without the buffer of Rebecca to translate what his little guy says and does, he is adrift. He is quick to irritation and being practical at heart, he doesn’t always ask the questions he should of Jake, and assumes the simplest answer.

That’s not to say he isn’t trying, because he is. But he’s also grieving too. So when he hears Jake talking to someone who isn’t there, he gets irritated that Jake hasn’t grown out of talking to imaginary friends, but in reality, that’s when things get creepy — and where Alex North’s immense talent at creating atmosphere in this book takes off.

At the same time readers are introduced to these two, they are also introduced to the case underlying this book: a missing boy, and his links to a predator, The Whisper Man, from decades before. The detectives on the case are interesting and represent two very different POVs into the case.

Pete, in particular, having caught The Whisper Man before is a controlled man, in a constant battle against the desire to drink. This case ruined him, but that’s not an excuse for his alcoholism and the decisions that led him to be where he is.

Amanda is finding this case to be her Whisper Man case, the one that will consume her and linger with her all the time. She is focused and determined, and she and Pete complement each other well… even more so when North draws the different threads of these characters together. 

A young boy who is a prominent character in a book that involves a case about kidnapped young boys… you know what’s coming right?

But, wonderfully, that’s hardly the most important and interesting part of this book. North crafts relationships and characters that are compelling and emotional and an atmosphere that creeped me out because, among other things, I kept questioning is Jake seeing something supernatural? Is there a simpler explanation for it? Perhaps, perhaps not.

My one problem with this book is the desire to push a romance that really didn’t go anywhere, and stuck out in what was otherwise an utterly engrossing read.

16 Comments

  • Jen Mullen says:

    The question of whether or not there is a supernatural element is intriguing in what already promises to be a suspenseful plot. That cover! That alone increases the creep factor.

    • Verushka says:

      This one has a whole lot of elements that just came together, and the cover is the cherry on top of all the goodness.

  • I’ve heard some really wonderful things about this book already. I’m hoping it fills the void that I wanted filled when I read The Chalk Man – which fell flat for me. I won a copy of this book from Goodreads and have to admit that I’m more excited to read it now that some reviews are popping up!

    • Verushka says:

      I think this is one of those ones that hits the hype in some ways for me, but also, resonated with me for unexpected reasons, outside the hype.

  • Lydia says:

    Ooh, this sounds good. How gory would you say it was? I don’t mind suspense or tension, but I do try to limit how much graphic violence/gore I read about.

    • Verushka says:

      No, the graphic violence/ gore was minimal to non-existent pretty much. Possibly there might be some mentions of stuff when the cops are speaking to another as I recall, but nothing more than that. The tension and suspense though? A+!

  • Lark says:

    This one intrigues me! 🙂

  • Wow, this sounds really good. I like that it has so much going on, both in terms of the serial killer plot and all of the relationships between the characters. Kind of a bummer about the romance but it still sounds like a read that would keep me on the edge of my seat. Great review!

    • Verushka says:

      The romance was minimal, but that kind of made it stick out more for me in what was otherwise a tightly written, and very atmospheric book. There’s so much I couldn’t say bc spoilers, but the relationships? Very impressive!

  • Your “What else is this about?” section certainly makes this book sound intriguing. And from your review, it sounds like the author does an amazing job with all those things! I’m already curious about who the boy is talking to or if someone is actually there, and the relationships sound amazing.

    • Verushka says:

      This book is impressive, chilling and in the end, so utterly bitterwseet in unexpected ways and my gosh do I want to say more, but I can’t!

  • It’s often the problem with forced romance in these kinds of stories I feel! I guess they’re trying to follow a certain formula? Which is often a shame, I agree.

    • Verushka says:

      Mercifully, it was a small part of a great book — but again, the worst thing is, that makes it obvious how much it didn’t fit in the story.

  • Love this review! It seems like there’s this rule nowadays that every book has to have some sort of romance, or at the very least a hint of a romance. Shame that it didn’t go anywhere. I’m all for creepy vibes and complex relationships, though. I’ve been keeping my eye on this one, and I can’t wait to read it myself. 🙂

    • Verushka says:

      the complex relationships and creep vibes totally MADE this book. But their awesomeness made the forced romance stick out more I guess. But again, complex relationships were srsly impressive.

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