“If you leave a door half-open, soon you’ll hear the whispers spoken…”
Published in 2019, The Whisper Man by Alex North follows Tom Kennedy and his young son Jake who, still devastated after the loss of Tom’s wife and Jake’s mother, move to the sleepy village of Featherbank, looking for a 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 into their new home. Except that now another young boy has gone missing. And then Jake begins acting strangely. He says he hears a whispering at his window…
After reading and loving The Shadow Friend last year, I was very excited to go back to North’s debut after hearing so many good things. A creepy and suspenseful mystery, The Whisper Man has all the feels of a chilling thriller. But while The Shadow Friend had me hooked, The Whisper Man felt much more monotonous in tone and the slow pace really slackened my intrigue.
Part of me really wanted it to pick up the pace, but part of me thinks that this slow pace did also strengthen its true-crime ambience. The small-town setting, the closed-off characters, and the spine-chilling nursery rhyme sung in the playground – the atmosphere of Featherbank and the fear of a possible serial killer all felt vivid, and that’s what I look for most of all in a dark thriller.
Inspired by North’s own little boy who mentioned that he was playing with “the boy in the floor”, The Whisper Man has all those scary moments that you don’t want to experience with your own child: them standing at the end of your bed when in the middle of the night, their weird imaginary friends who sound far too real.
Alongside the gloomy atmospheric setting and bleak themes of grief, loss, alcoholism, and neglect, I absolutely loved that dismal horror film feel to it. But it was just so slow. And the open-ended ending didn’t work for me, either. There are still a few things left unanswered and I’m not even sure why their connection to the town was really relevant, so it just didn’t come together well enough for me in the end for me.
Still, Alex North remains an author I get excited about, so I eagerly look forward to his future releases.
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