The Whisper Man
Written by Alex North
Review by Jarad Johnson
Fall seems to have come somewhat unexpectedly. One day, I’m wearing sandals and the next I’m bundled up to my eyeballs in a coat and scarf. My immune system loves that. Sigh. But what I really love is a creepy book, and with the onset of fall, that’s what I’ve been reading. The Whisper Man is a book that I’ve heard about for a month or so now, and now is the perfect time to read it. The plot features a famous writer whose wife has just died, and the book deals with how he and his son try to cope with that loss. There’s also serial killers and ghosts, because why wouldn’t there be? No creepy book worth its salt is going to not have at least one of those things and why not double your fun? This is a book that I would call a “guilty pleasure.” It’s fun reading, and a good story, and a very nice break from all the assigned reading I’ve been given
The novel begins in grief and quickly ramps up to fear when Father Tom Kennedy and his son Jake move to a neighborhood where residents begin to vanish. Besides the fun stuff, the novel is genuine exploration of how families handle the loss of a parent. This loss is foundational to the novel. The uncomfortable, uncertain way that the father and his son approach their grief is felt throughout the book. Creepy is perhaps not the right word; maybe uneasy is. The book generates a strong sense of unease. From the first page the reader feels that something is amiss. The apprehension grows throughout the plot, and while the more traditional scary elements add to the novel, they seem to me very much a background element. The grief and the sense of loss is at the forefront.
I found the serial killer element to the book to be a little predictable, and if I had a critique of the novel, that would be one of the few. It’s very difficult to make that plot line original now, I think. But in some ways, with a mystery, you know what you’re getting into. You know that the bad guy is going to be caught, and you know basically how things will play out. (And might I add that you want the plot of a mystery to end in a satisfying way so that you feel you understood what happened. It can be quite disappointing if you don’t!) However, with genres like mystery and horror, sometimes authors use that predictability as a way to explore other things, as is the case here. Since the reader begins to sense the ultimate outcome of the plot, we are able to focus on other elements and messages in the novel. We are able to go beyond the surface level superficiality of that plot to find the deeper message.
So, if you like creepy books, you will most likely enjoy this one. It’s very well crafted, and explores many real-life problems and issues, as horror often does. Sometimes horror falls into tropes and seems to tell the same story over and over again. This novel manages to both use those tropes and tell a unique and compelling story.
Jarad is the co-administrator and writer for Sacred Chickens, attends college at MTSU, loves tea and coffee, and tries to spend every spare second reading. He recently developed an interest (some might say obsession) with gardening. Jarad is an English major with a concentration in literature. Bless his heart! Let's all light a candle for him and send him happy thoughts!