Okay, so I was hooked from the very first page of this book when I read the following lines of a letter from a father to his son:
“It’s not going to be easy and 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.”
The story takes place in the town of Featherback, which has quite a gruesome past. Twenty years ago, a serial killer dubbed “The Whisper Man” abducted and murdered five young boys. He was so-named because each of the victims reported hearing whispering outside of their bedroom window at night before they disappeared. Eventually caught by Detective Peter Willis after the fifth murder, the Whisper Man, whose real name is Frank Carter, is now locked up prison.
Fast forward to the present day. Neil Spencer, a six-year-old boy, has been abducted and the crime bears a shocking resemblance to the Whisper Man’s crimes of so long ago. Still haunted by Carter’s grisly crimes, Detective Inspector Willis has always suspected that the murderer may have had an accomplice but could never prove anything. Now Willis can’t help but wonder whether the old crimes and this new one are related.
The story also revolves around Tom Kennedy, a grieving widower and his seven-year-old son Jake who recently moved into town and into a new house. Shortly after they move in, weird things begin to happen. Jake begins to act up and claims to hear whispering outside his window. Oh, and Jake also has an imaginary friend who tells him details about the Whisper Man that only the police know. Tom, of course, is beside himself and it’s evident that the two of them have an uncomfortable relationship. How do you relate to your son when he talks to people who aren’t there? Of maybe they are.
Now what’s interesting about this story, is that it’s told from the POV of several of the characters: Jake, Tom, Pete and another detective on the new case, Amanda Beck. In being privy to their thoughts, we can’t help but experience and be moved by the intense human element in this story, especially surrounding the dysfunctional relationships between fathers and their sons. I especially enjoyed being in Jake’s head as I found him quite a mysterious, precocious, and fascinating little boy.
And then there’s the broken detective full of regret who put the serial killer behind bars. Lastly, given the nature of the story — murders of young children and the loss of Tom’s wife and Jake’s mom – there’s also a powerful element of grief which really wrenched at my heart in places.
I felt that all these different character perspectives on the events in Featherback really added a richness and extra depth to the story, creating a genuinely well-round tale. The author certainly did an excellent job of ratcheting up the tension in the story, especially once those characters we’ve come to care about fall into danger.
Now I will say that though this book is eerie and downright terrifying, it isn’t gory, for which I was appreciative, given that the victims where all children. But still, just the situation of abducted children by a potential serial killer is more than enough to create an unbelievable amount of tension and get the heart pounding. And then there is the utterly chilling villain. This is the kind of villain that gives you nightmares and has you checking the locks on the doors and windows over and over again.
The Whisper Man is an intense heart-in-your-throat psychological thriller with a “Sixth Sense” vibe to it and a huge creep factor. The short chapters helped to increase the heart-pounding pacing and added a feeling of “urgency.”
This is a terrifying dark and twisty story that fills you with an ever-growing sense of dread and menace as you turn each page. It’s definitely the most unsettling book I’ve read in a while.
One thing that I found a bit odd though was that the author switched back and forth from first person POV and third-person POV. I did find this a tad jarring at times but eventually got used to it. Not quite sure what the stylistic reason for it was though.
But POV aside, I thought the book was flawless. It’s an engrossing, creepy and captivating read with fantastic, well-fleshed out characters, intricate world-building and excellent pacing that just might be my favorite book of 2019. I also enjoyed how the book also deals with trauma and grief, and how those can affect our actions and our choices. A solid 5-star read.