Today it is my pleasure to be taking part in the blog tour for The Whisper Man, the brand new psychological thriller from Alex North. A big thank you to Jenny Platt at Penguin for inviting me to join the tour and providing the copy of the book for review. Here’s what it’s all about:
About the Book
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 . . .Available from: Amazon | Kobo | Waterstones | Playstore | Apple Books
I was one of a lucky few people to receive a copy of this book almost a year ago in Harrogate. I know a lot of my fellow bloggers were very excited about it, although it was a book I knew little about myself. This is one of those books, the kind in which the reputation, or the expectation, precedes the actual story. So, did the book match all the pre-publication excitement?
I’d say, by and large, yes. I was very curious about this book when I finally read the blurb as, and I won’t lie here, I had read a book with a very similar premise a year, maybe a year and a half ago. In some respects the stories are very, very similar, in others they are poles apart, and I think that what really separates the two is the level of atmosphere and tension which is built within The Whisper Man, along with the backstory and those moments where the author manages to convince you as a reader that there is more to this world than what the eye can see.
I don’t want to say much about the plot of this book as the blurb really say it all. Featherbank is a town with a very dark past, one which seems set to be repeated. One boy missing and it seems that whoever, or whatever, has taken him, may well have Jake in their sights … So far, so expected as it wouldn’t be much of a creeping tale if Tom moved him and his son to town and nothing much happened now would it. What makes this story pop, and what I believe it is that is captivating readers and, I will confess, drew me into the story, is the way in which the author has taken the practically everyday, albeit tragic, circumstance and woven it into an intricate tale of family, secrets, suspense, and perhaps a touch of the unexpected.
The characters in this book are beautifully fleshed out. Firstly you have Tom, a man struggling desperately with fatherhood since the tragic death of his wife. His inability to understand or feel as though he could bond with Jake was so authentic that every ounce of frustration and feeling of failure made me that fraction more understanding toward him. Despite his failings, his self doubt in most cases, there was never any doubting his love for Jake and theirs was a very touching, if troubled, relationship. When you understand Tom’s background, as you eventually come to do, it is clear why he acts as he does.
Jake is a wonder and I really liked his character. Quiet, secretive, and with ‘special friends’ who would give anyone the absolute heebie-jeebies, you could sense that all he wanted was two things – his mother back and to know his father’s love. There were moments in the book that would make your bottom lip wobble with emotion, but also that would make you pause, catch your a breath even. For Jake is a child who appears to have a strange knack for knowing things he couldn’t possibly know, saying things he couldn’t understand and hearing voices which can’t possibly be real. Can they?
My favourite character, though, has to be Pete, the Detective Inspector who caught the Whisper Man some twenty years before and has dedicated all of his time since then trying to find the killer’s final victim and bring him home to his parents. You can feel his weariness on each page, feel the weight of that burden he carries upon his shoulders and sympathise with his struggles, mental and physical, as he battles against a demon that has haunted him for years. We learn surprising things about Pete, some more than others, but from the very start of the book he was the character I found myself most drawn to, and the one I wanted to stick with until the end, no matter his flaws.
This is a creepy and atmospheric novel with a keen sense of place. From the descriptions of the quirky house that Tom and Jake move into, through to the waste ground from which the latest boy is taken, you get a real picture building up of where the story is set, the small town community which has been rocked by such tragedy. From those small creaks and unexplained noises that penetrate the silence, through to the clever use of an old rhyme to drive the sense of superstition and foreboding, everything is pitched just right to keep readers on edge. In fact it is the rhyme which will really start to set your mind whirring, reminding me very much of the rhyme which played a central part in movies such as ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’. You know the kind? The ones that children tell each other to scare their friends and try and prompt brave, or inevitably foolish, acts.
Every little thing, the whispers, the voice at the door, the contradiction of the colourful butterfly against the dank and clustered interior of the old garage at the end of Tom’s garden – it all makes you sit up and take note. Now I grew up on horror stories – reading, watching, telling – from when I was three years old, so it takes a lot to spook me, but I did get that kind of unnerving undercurrent as I read, and the author has allowed the tension and suspense to flow really well, all building to that final killer reveal. (No pun intended …)
So if you like your thrillers to lie, how should I put it, on an angle, to be chilling in execution with a sense of the supernatural, or at the very least the inexplicable, then I think The Whisper Man will be for you. It will certainly be a big seller this summer and deserves all the attention and praise it is getting.
About the Author
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 their sociology department.
Author Links: Twitter
Follow the tour: