- The Whisper Man.
- Alex North.
- 400 pages.
- Crime / Thriller / Mystery.
- My Rating: Hell Yeah Book Review.
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 . . .
“Over the years, I told you so many times that there was nothing to be afraid of. That there was no such thing as monsters.
I’m sorry that I lied”.
The Whisper Man starts with a confession written by Tom Kennedy to his seven-year-old son Jake. It sets the emotional undercurrent for the story that flows through the pages and it is also quietly unsettling, giving the reader a sense of foreboding, an air of ominous dread for what’s to follow, of the darkness that will fall and of what will come to pass.
After suffering a family bereavement, the devastating and sudden loss of his wife ten months ago Tom Kennedy and Jake, his young son relocate to the picturesque and quiet village of Featherbank. The move is a chance to try and heal, to try and move forward, not forgetting but trying to live again, to put the broken pieces back together and to begin anew. Tom is unaware of the history of the area, the rumours of the ‘creepy‘ house that he buys and of the sinister history of ‘The Whisper Man‘ that haunts Featherbank.
A boy has recently gone missing in Featherbank and the disappearance bears all of the hallmarks of a serial killer who, 15 years ago abducted and murdered five young boys. Before they went missing, the boys all heard a whispering at their window and due to that, Frank Carter, the killer was dubbed ‘The Whisper Man‘. The Whisper Man was caught and since then he has spent the following years in jail, behind bars and locked away. But now, there are echoes of the past and Jake starts hearing a voice whispering at his window.
There’s something heartbreaking and human about the story told in The Whisper Man, something that tugs at your heartstrings, that makes them come undone and that rends your emotions. I’m not going to delve into the story, it’s a sinister yet achingly heartfelt darkened and harrowing road that you need to travel down and discover for yourself. Suffice to say that from the first page through to the last it is brilliant and I loved The Whisper Man so much. It is one of the best books that I have read this year and one of the best books that I have ever read. It is addictive, chilling, dark, emotional, moving, poignant and touching.
The move to Featherbank should be a fresh start for Tom and Jake. Their relationship is fractious. Jake was far closer to Rebecca than to Tom and he had always been a Mummy’s boy. But, his Mum isn’t there anymore, she has left the land of the living and will never again kiss him goodnight, comfort him, hold him or play with him. Tom always struggled as a parent, the sins of the father and the past can weigh heavy upon your shoulders. Even though the pair are similar and they share creative traits Tom has been unable or unwilling through fear of failure to see that and they have never really bonded.
The new house, the new situation is uncharted territory for the pair as they struggle to build a relationship. They had been on a downward spiral, struggling to cope with their grief over the loss of Rebecca and Tom feels like he has let Jake down by not knowing how to be a father. Neither knows how to talk to the other or how to open up about their feelings and there is a chasm, a gulf between them that has developed. There is a sense of self-hatred to Tom, he begins to hate himself for failing Jake, for the hopelessness of the situation and for the frustration that he can’t seem to connect with his son. Tom loves Jake, more than anything and all he wants to do is protect Jake and to keep him safe. But, he doesn’t know how and neither does he know the danger, the horrors that await, that are lurking on the streets of Featherbank.
Jake doesn’t have many friends and he isn’t a social child. He’s sensitive, timid, quiet and withdrawn. He’d rather draw than play sports. He is an outsider who talks to himself, to his imaginary friends. He also has his ‘Packet of Special Things’ a collection of random items that hold great meaning to him, that anchor him and that calms him. Jake’s imaginary friends add a hint of the supernatural to the story as they seem more than just creations born from his own mind. Are they out to harm him? To hurt him? Or, are they there to help him? To protect him?
Alongside what is happening with Tom and Jake, there is also the police investigation led by DI Amanda Beck into the abduction of six-year-old Neil Spencer. The two storylines, the past and the present all converge. With the abduction echoing the original Whisper Man abductions, DI Beck brings in DI Pete Willis from the original ‘The Whisper Man‘ case to help find little Neil Spencer. Back when the original case was solved there were murmurings that Carter had an accomplice but nothing was ever proved and subsequently, nothing came of those murmurings. Willis has to delve back into the past and surround himself with the demons that continue to haunt him to help with the new case. Does Carter know anything? Can he shine some light on why history appears to be repeating in Featherbank? Willis is haunted by Frank Carter but Willis is also the only person that the incarcerated Carter will talk too. Four of Carter’s victims were found, the fifth body, that of Tom Smith has never been found and it eats away at Willis.
The monstrous Carter preyed on neglected and vulnerable boys and in prison, enjoys a level of fame and notoriety. Carter plays mind games with Willis but Willis keeps going back, visiting Carter year after year in the hope that Carter will finally show a modicum of decency, of humanity, of repentance and tell him where the body is buried. Or, at the least, slip up and inadvertently offer Willis a clue as to the whereabouts of Smith’s body. It is a burden that Willis has to carry, a weight upon his shoulders and visiting Carter, hoping, praying and putting up with his games is his penance for never being able to find little Tom Smith and lay his bones to rest, to bring his soul peace
In the intervening years, the name given to Carter has become folklore for Featherbank and the surrounding area and the basis for a rhyme that found its way into the school playgrounds, to scare children.
“If you leave a door half open, soon you’ll hear the whispers spoken”.
The Whisper Man is more than just a thriller, it’s a look into dark and fractured minds, into family and the ties that bind. It is a look into the struggles of fatherhood, the complexities of and the difficulties of the relationships between fathers and their sons. The Whisper Man niggles away at you, the disquiet of the story, playing on your mind, burrowing under, unnerving you like cold fingers that caress and that make your skin tingle. The story is fast-paced with shocking twists along the way and ramps up to breakneck pacing near the end. The writing by North is stellar, poetic and thought-provoking with emotions that are tangible upon the pages.
It is the power of the writer, of their words and of their stories to fully transport you into their work. Some books you read and some you experience. The Whisper Man is one such book and transcends simply ‘reading’ to a deeper more profound level. It will chill you to the core while simultaneously thawing your heart (for little Jake your heart will outright break, it will shatter to pieces). It is more than mere characters on a page and more than just a story being told. It is a book that resonates with the reader. You live and breathe the atmosphere, the chills, the tension and the emotion. The characters feel real, you care about them and about the outcome. There’s a depth to North’s creation and an emotional impact to the story that lingers long after you have turned the final page.
There’s a beauty to be found in darkness and The Whisper Man personifies that sentiment. Simply, The Whisper Man is a book that you will remember, a book you won’t soon forget.
Purchase The Whisper Man.
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