Short Take: I can’t seem to pick my jaw up.
Hello, my beloveds! I am afraid I don’t have a lot of time for my usual not-clever but oddly charming intro today, and in fact, I hadn’t even planned to write a review for this one as it’s already been thoroughly praised by people much smarter than I, but I just couldn’t resist. My mouth is hanging open, and for once, it’s not because I’m in the process of putting food into it or making a witty comment, and I just have to share. So let’s get to it, hmmm?
When Rebecca Kennedy dies suddenly and far too young, she leaves behind her husband Tom and six year old son Jake, who are both still grieving, shocked and traumatized when they move to the quaint town of Featherbank, hoping for a new start. But changing location doesn’t actually erase loss, and the heartbreak and resulting issues (Jake’s isolation and too-real imaginary friends, Tom’s anger and withdrawal) are still alive and well in the new house.
There are larger, more dangerous problems in Featherbank though, as Detective Peter Willis knows all too well. Twenty years ago, Frank Carter, a serial killer of little boys, earned the nickname The Whisper Man. He would target unloved and unwanted children, and whisper to them outside their windows, luring them away. He’s spent the last two decades in prison, but now another little boy has disappeared, now Jake has heard the whispers, and now he’s learned a new nursery rhyme….
“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.”
I could probably say a lot of things about the plot, but I’m just going to leave it at this: The Whisper Man is one of the best books I’ve read in ages. Mr. North gives us horror, sure, and loads of creepiness, but it’s also a murder mystery, ghost story, thoughtful meditation on generational trauma and what it means to be a father or son or father to a son, a bit of a romance, and an edge of your seat thriller that also includes a twist that should be soap-opera-ish and ridiculous but somehow is just beautiful instead.
The pacing is likewise spot-on, and the characters are absolutely brilliant. Detective Willis, in particular, is a man haunted by both the monsters he’s pursued and the demons in his past, the ones he can’t let go of, and the ones that won’t let go of him. And as for Tom and Jake… their hurt was so very real. Experiencing a loss while also trying to guide a child through it is a nonstop, grinding, exhausting, infuriating process, and it was captured perfectly, in ways both ugly and true.
Just read it. I mean, make sure you can take a day off, because you won’t get anything done till you’re finished, but this one is worth clearing your schedule for.
The Nerd’s Rating: FIVE HAPPY NEURONS (and an unopened bottle of vodka. Because I have a lot to do around here but I might just reward myself later.)