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The whisper man : a novel
2019
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New York Times Review
Remember Haley Joel Osment in "The Sixth Sense," the "I see dead people" kid? He's got nothing on 7-year-old Jake Kennedy, who doesn't just see dead people - he hears them and talks to them, too. His father, Tom, believes his shy young son is adjusting to life in a new town by dreaming up imaginary friends. But then he overhears one of them threaten Jake. "It didn't sound like a child at all," Tom thinks. "The voice was too old and throaty for that. I glanced at the front door beside me.... Was it possible someone else had come in?" He rushes to check on his boy but finds him alone. Jake is no help: He tells Tom "it was the boy in the floor" talking. Then Jake begins hearing something even more sinister, a strange voice crooning outside his window at night, begging to come in the house. That would be alarming in and of itself, but 20 years ago, a serial killer nicknamed "the Whisper Man" abducted and murdered five children in the village this way. Is there a copycat killer? Or did the Whisper Man have an accomplice, someone who's surfaced to kill again? When another little boy disappears from the town, D.I. Amanda Beck begins to investigate. So does Pete Willis, the detective assigned to the original cases who's basically become a walking cliché: tormented, guilt-ridden and sad. There are two threads here - the supernatural one and the police-procedural one - and North does a fine job knitting them together. He switches narrators with each chapter, a technique that can be irritating when done badly but that works beautifully here; it keeps you off-balance and grasping for some footing as you hurtle from Amanda's squad car to Jake's lonely bedroom to the Whisper Man's prison cell. What North does best, though, is ratchet up the tension, imperceptibly at first, then with increasing urgency. If you like being terrified, "The Whisper Man" has your name on it. But if you get jumpy when you're home alone, if you're attuned to every floorboard creak and window-rattling gust, you might want to give this one a skip. TINA JORDAN is an editor at the Book Review.
Library Journal Review
Each thread in the fabric of this dark story includes the bite of abandonment, the bitterness of self-loathing, and the overwhelming desire to be loved. After the death of his wife Rebecca, Tom Kennedy and his son, Jake, search for a new beginning. Detective Pete Willis buries himself in work to escape the overwhelming guilt from his alcoholic binges that chased his family away. Francis reacts to the sting of his father's hatred by imitating his father. All threads converge in the small community of Featherbank, England, where 20 years earlier a serial killer, nicknamed The Whisper Man, stalked and murdered five young boys before he was captured and sent to prison. Soon after Tom and Jake move to Featherbank, another young boy disappears. Detectives Amanda Beck and Pete Willis recognize undisclosed similarities in the crimes. Narrator Christopher Eccleston builds suspense while leaving much to the imagination of the listener. VERDICT Though this is a tale that hinges on children being murdered, it is not gruesome. It might even be characterized as a tale of love between fathers and sons. Engaging on many levels.--Ann Weber, Bellarmine Coll. Prep., San Jose, CA
Publishers Weekly Review
In the pseudonymous North's superb thriller, a police procedural with supernatural overtones, Det. Insp. Amanda Beck heads the search for six-year-old Neil Spencer, who has gone missing from the English village of Featherbank. Neil may have been lured from his home by someone who whispered at his window at night, the same m.o. as incarcerated serial child killer Frank Carter (aka the Whisper Man), who was apprehended 20 years earlier by Det. Insp. Pete Willis. Beck brings in Willis to assist, specifically because he's the only person Carter will talk to. Meanwhile, author Tom Kennedy, still reeling from his wife's death, seeks a fresh start in Featherbank with his seven-year-old son, Jake. The sensitive Jake talks to a little girl who isn't there and fears "the boy under the floor" in their odd new house. A strange man snooping at the Kennedy house and an attempt to lure Jake away during the night become connected to Beck's investigation as she and Willis struggle to make a connection to Carter. Readers will have a tough time putting down this truly unnerving tale, with its seemingly unexplainable elements and glimpses of broken and dangerous minds. Agent: Sandra Sawicka, Marjacq (U.K.). (Aug.) This review has been updated to note the book's author is using a pseudonym.
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