book review: The Whisper Man by Alex North

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THE WHISPER MAN by Alex North
★★☆☆☆
Celadon Books, 2019

 

All I really look for when picking out a thriller is an intriguing premise, and The Whisper Man absolutely had that covered: 20 years ago in a small English town, a series of murders occurred where a man would lure little boys outside by whispering at their windows, hold them captive for a brief period, and then kill them. The culprit was caught with damning evidence, but now, 20 years later, a series of murders is starting up that bear a startling resemblance to those committed by ‘The Whisper Man,’ who is still incarcerated.

I think there are two types of successful thrillers: one where the delight comes from the reader feeling involved in the whodunnit, where there are so many potential suspects you’re bound to be wrong no matter who you guess; and one where guessing the identity of the murderer isn’t really the point, but there are still so many twists and turns that you enjoy the ride anyway. The Whisper Man manages to fall in neither category. This neither had a thrilling murderer reveal, nor much momentum on the way there. Instead it hinges on family dynamics and the theme of fatherhood, which I suppose is done well, though it appears to have been at the detriment of… literally everything else.

I’ve seen others describe this book as creepy, scary, etc., and I have to wonder if I just missed something. Aside from a few moments that hinted at the possibility of something paranormal at play, I just found the atmosphere in this book conspicuously absent. In fact, the whole book felt muted, like it was being held back from achieving the real dread or terror that it was obviously striving for. The plot was likewise uninspired and straightforward; I’m just not sure what this book’s hook was supposed to be, once the promising exposition is out of the way. We just sort of amble through a rather aimless narrative about serial killers and creepy children – it’s like Alex North put a bunch of horror tropes into a blender and mixed them until they lost their flavor. There was just nothing unique or potent or memorable about this book.

Contrary to everything I’ve just written, I might recommend this to readers who are new-ish to thrillers (I will concede that a few of my ‘that was so obvious’ moments come from too much familiarity with the genre) but my overwhelming feeling about this book is one of anticlimax. If you’re looking for a safe, tame option in the genre, give it a shot; if you need something a bit more dark and twisted, definitely keep looking.


You can pick up a copy of The Whisper Man here on Book Depository.

16 thoughts on “book review: The Whisper Man by Alex North

    • I have such a soft spot for thrillers but I’m underwhelmed by them more often than not – it’s so frustrating! I just want something sinister and creepy and thoroughly unpredictable, but I guess that’s too much to ask for. I hadn’t heard of The Tall Man – what a dreadful title! But I just looked it up and you’re right, the premise is fantastic. Glad to know I should avoid it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I really like the title! To me it captures the wording of the kind of urban legends children tell each other in Britain. Maybe it’s lost in translation. But yes, I wouldn’t recommend. At this point I’d just be happy with a genuinely creepy or tense supernatural thriller – I don’t care if they have a twist or not.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Ohhh interesting – definitely lost in translation!! To me it has the same kind of silliness as if it were ‘The 6’4″ Man’. I see it in a different light after your explanation but that didn’t register for me at all. Incidentally, it doesn’t appear to have been published in the US – maybe altogether too British to have a market here. And yes I’m fine with no twists as long as I don’t feel like I’m a step ahead of the narrative, which I did with The Whisper Man, I guess that’s what I meant by unpredictable.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Ha, that is not a good title! IIRC, it feels very British and I can see it having less appeal to a US market. And yes, the worst thing is when it’s supposed to be a twist but you’re well ahead…

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Great review, I’m so glad I resisted choosing this one from BOTM… I am not interested at all in the fatherhood aspect and am disappointed to hear that it’s not even scary, so I will definitely let this one pass me by. Sorry you suffered through, but I appreciate being able to definitively cross it off my list!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I could have withstood the heavy-handed fatherhood stuff if it had been the least bit spooky, but alas!! Glad I could spare you from this one. Based on what you’ve just said about your expectations for it, I don’t think it would be a good fit at all.

      Liked by 1 person

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