Alex North’s debut, The Whisper Man is an outstanding thriller and one of the best crime novels I’ve read this year. In tones similar to Stephen King he ramps up compelling suspense with an air of supernatural peril.
Alex North structured his novel in a way that is extremely appealing to me, where one character narrates in the first person and the other threads are provided in the third person. This tends to create an opportunity for great story-telling with a personal view to draw you into a particular character. Tom Kennedy is an author and is finding life difficult. He is still reeling from the death of his wife and his young son, Jake, is worryingly detached from other people. Every conversation he tries to have with Jake, every attempt to understand his son’s feelings, or express his own pain and loneliness, just get inadvertently twisted to compound the problem. The jarring recognition that the harder you try, the more frustrated you get, and the further away from normality you slip. In an attempt to make a fresh start away from the sad, heart-breaking and irrepressible memories, Tom and Jake move home to the town of Featherbank.
His son, Jake, remains in his own bubble, an outsider, and is often seen talking openly to his imaginary friend, even whilst at school. These are the characteristics that align with the quest of a serial killer, known as The Whisper Man.
“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.”
Featherbank has a dark sinister past were twenty years ago, the Whisper Man abducted and killed five young boys. All except young Tony Smith have been found and the killer, Frank Carter, was eventually caught by DI Pete Willis and is still serving time in prison.
Pete battles a screaming desire for alcohol and confronts psychological problems regarding the investigation into the Whisper Man. He has always felt that the unrecovered body of Tony, and with events that didn’t align in the case, that there was an accomplice. Now 20 years later DI Amanda Beck is leading an investigation into a missing boy, that has all the hallmarks of The Whisper Man. Pete is brought back into the investigation and they must consider if it’s an accomplice resurfacing or a copy-cat killer, and why does Frank Carter appear to have an awareness of what is happening? All these uneasy questions and surprises churn throughout this fascinating plot.
The horror is just about to get real for Tom and Jake as a devilish figure seems to be conversing in whispers with Jake to open the front door. This thriller is tense and edgy with an evil phantom that lurks in dark corners and just outside windows and doors. The Whisper Man is a totally captivating and engrossing thriller, with marvellous characterisations and deep psychological interplay. The ghost-like threat from a killer is wonderfully developed and played at a pace that maintained an impressive plot momentum.
I would highly recommend this book and I’d like to thank Celadon Books and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC copy in return for an honest review.