Source: Review copy #Netgalley
Publication: 13 June 2019 from Michael Joseph
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 much-needed 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 . . .
Every now and again, I like to dip my toe in the murky waters of scarifying. If it comes with a hint of the supernatural, then so much the better. So I turned to Alex North’s debut, The Whisper Man, with some warm apprehension.
Goodness me, but it is SCARY!!!! This is a novel that literally stuffs your head with atmosphere and sends shivers down your spine with its menacing tones.
A dark cloud hangs over the small town of Featherbank. 15 years ago DI Pete Willis put Frank Carter in prison for the murder of 5 Featherbank boys over a period of years. Known as ‘The Whisper Man’, Carter is still toying with Willis, who visits him in the hope that he will one day be able to extract the resting place of the body of the last boy, Tony Smith, so that his parents can finally say a proper goodbye to their son. Every visit by Willis to this psychopath haunts him, but this is something he has to do.
The Whisper Man is now a tale told by children to scare their peers. He even has his own scary nursery rhyme.
Tom Kennedy is struggling to come to terms with the sudden death of his wife Rebecca. Trying to make a new start he moves to Featherbank with his 6 year old son, Jake. Jake is a special little boy, sensitive and with a huge imagination and Tom loves him with all his heart. There’s no denying though, that Rebecca was the one who understood Jake best and now the father and son are left trying to connect. Both Tom and Jake struggle to make their relationship work and this part of the book is tender, full of raw emotion and a searing honesty about how badly Tom is struggling and how much Jake needs to be loved by his dad.
Now another Featherbank boy, Neil Spencer, is missing. DI Amanda Beck is in charge of this case but already the rumours about the return of The Whisper Man are flying around. Could this be a copycat abduction, or what if Carter had an accomplice all those years ago? Norman Collins collects macabre objects from serial killers and he is obsessed with the Whisper Man. Jake, meanwhile is hearing voices…and soon he will be drawn into grave danger; into a nightmare of horrific proportions.
Alex North has written a beautifully plotted, richly atmospheric novel with characters you care about. Tom, Jake and DI Willis are all characters you are drawn to and root for. The sense of small town life where a rumour can fly from corner to corner until everyone knows it for a truth is palpable.
Verdict: Spine-chilling, propulsive, tense and atmospheric, The Whisper Man is a startlingly good debut from a writer with a prodigious talent.
Alex North was born in Leeds, where he now lives with his wife and son. He studied Philosophy at Leeds University, and prior to becoming a writer he worked there in the Sociology department.