“I need to start with an apology. Because over the years I’ve told you many times that there’s no such thing as monsters. I’m sorry that I lied.”
Cryptic, spine-chilling, and undoubtedly ominous, Alex North’s The Whisper Man is crime mystery at its scariest.
Twenty years ago, the quaint town of Featherbank was wracked with tragedy after the disappearance and subsequent murders of five Featherbank residents. Back then, justice had been served, and time healed the town’s gaping wounds. Best of all, the killer had been caught…or so they thought. When six-year-old Neil Spencer is found dead, matching the killer’s MO, the case rekindles the fears of its predecessor, drawing the town back into the horrors of The Whisper Man.
Simultaneously, a few towns over, Tom Kennedy and his young son Jake mourn wife and mother Rebecca, whose death tarnished their hearts and their home. Rebecca’s absence pervades the entire house, her memory in every nook and hollow, and Jake can’t even bear to look at the staircase without his father cradling him in his arms. In grief, Jake and his father are kindred spirits, yet in every other facet of their lives, they drift further from one another—and their loss exacerbates this divide. Bereft and wishing for a fresh start, Tom sells their home and moves to Featherbank, unbeknownst of the perils it harbors or that he just gave The Whisper Man a new target.
Packed with addictive storytelling and misdirection that keeps you guessing, The Whisper Man is a crime thriller full of spontaneity and uncertainty. North expertly shapes and manipulates your suspicions throughout the novel, leaving traces that have you absolutely certain of one character’s culpability, only for it to drastically shift after a new shred of evidence emerges. At no point in this novel was the culprit obvious, and this book will have you flip-flopping repeatedly on who you think the killer is. Just when I thought I’d sussed out the Whisper Man, I was proven irrevocably wrong with a reveal that left me utterly blindsided and second-guessing my investigative abilities, or apparent lack thereof.
As far as murder mysteries go, The Whisper Man takes it to an even more ominous and spine-chilling level. Blending reality with supernatural undertones, such as the little girl only Jake can see, makes the book that much creepier, that much more unsettling. North fosters this further through the rather seamless way he interjects each paragraph, cutting of abruptly mid-sentence with “creak.” It’s a simple strategy often used in other novels, yet North has this inexplicable way of creating the scene so vividly, you’ll find yourself looking over your shoulder and listening intently to every creak in your own house. The story simply comes to life, as do its characters.
Jake and Tom Kennedy are such layered and multifaceted characters, and their inward struggles are just as palpable as their outward ones. For Jake, you can feel his grief for his mom and his disquiet from him and his father’s tenuous relationship—feelings paralleled acutely in Tom’s character as well, alongside a potent and self-deprecating air of parental failure. The characters possess an immense emotional depth that just makes them feel so real, so relatable.
For fans of murder mysteries and stories that keep you on your toes, The Whisper Man arrests your attention, and missing out on this one would be downright criminal.