Book Review: The Whisper Man by Alex North
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Celadon Books (August 20, 2019)
Length: 368 pages
Crime mysteries are another subgenre of thrillers that I’ve been checking out lately, and since stories about cold cases and serial killers are my jam, I knew I had to check out The Whisper Man by Alex North. This book has been getting a ton of attention lately, with lots of hype around it surrounding it and even a movie deal, so who can blame me for being curious.
In the small town of Featherbank in Britain, terrorized residents thought they could finally move forward and feel safe again after Frank Carter also known as “The Whisper Man” was caught and put behind bars. In the years he was active, the notorious child killer kidnapped and murdered five little boys. That was more than ten years ago, and life was just starting to return to normal there when the unthinkable suddenly happens—one evening, the parents of 6-year-old Neil Spencer realize that their son never made it back home after a short walk. But with Frank Carter in prison, it couldn’t be The Whisper Man this time, could it? Or is the town under threat from another serial killer, possibly a copycat or an accomplice of Carter’s who has remained on the loose after all this time?
Meanwhile, Tom Kennedy is a recently widowed author who has just moved to Featherbank, hoping to start a new life with his young son Jake. Seven years old and gifted with a vivid imagination, Jake has become even more reserved after his mother’s death, struggling with bullies and retreating into conversations with imaginary friends. But instead of getting better, Jake remains troubled at school and in the eerie old house they’ve moved into, telling Tom about the whispering he hears in the dark. After a frightening incident in the middle of the night, the police who are called are immediately alerted to some of the warning signs in Jake’s story. For Detective Inspector Pete Willis, the details are especially disturbing, for he was the one who worked on The Whisper Man case. One of the victims has never been found, and to this day Willis is still trying to persuade Frank Carter to reveal the location of the remains. Now in light of the disappearance of Neil Spencer and Jake’s terrifying encounter, it’s become even more imperative for the detective to solve the connections and catch the culprit.
If you’re looking for a nice atmospheric thriller, The Whisper Man will certainly deliver. But after reading it, do I think it’s worth the hype? Well, I think that would depend on the kind of reader you are. This past year I’ve been cutting my teeth on similarly themed books by C.J. Tudor, Lesley Kara and many others, so after a while you start to spot some of the same tonal patterns and plot elements—killer in a small town, difficult parent-child relationships, the imaginary friend angle, a dark thread of the supernatural lurking beneath the surface, etc., etc., etc. That is to say, at a certain point the novelty starts to wear off, and I think I’ve reached that place. I mean, I found nothing inherently nothing wrong this novel; it was well written, well plotted, and well presented. And yet, the story didn’t grip me like I thought it would. Perhaps I was expecting too much, but I found the overall plot of The Whisper Man to be fairly predictable (I saw at least two of the major twists coming a mile away) and subsequently, it’s hard not to feel underwhelmed.
Though of course, your mileage may vary. Obviously, seeing clichés everywhere and being able to predict certain outcomes caused me to enjoy this one a bit less, but there’s still a lot to love here. Alex North uses multiple perspectives to craft this tale, threading them together so they form a tight, cohesive narrative that is spot on with timing. I wouldn’t call this fast-paced exactly, but the story never feels slow because there’s always something interesting happening on the page. Character development is layered on gradually, as the events unfold. Clues are also doled out meticulously at just the right times. I also enjoyed the thick and moody atmosphere, which is so important for a story like this, and the supernatural element was also a welcome touch. Like I said, I have no complaints at all regarding the technical aspects of this book; North is clearly no stranger to the craft of writing, having previously written more crime novels under a different name according to his publisher profile, and I do like his style.
If only The Whisper Man had held more surprises for me, I probably would have adored this book. That said, I didn’t think it was bad at all, even if I don’t love it enough to gush about it. For a crime mystery, it had its interesting moments and provided an entertaining journey, and I had a good time. I can definitely see this one being a hit for many.