Friday, July 12, 2019


THE WHISPER MAN by Alex North 

Reviewed by Craig Sisterson

After the sudden death of his wife, Tom Kennedy believes a fresh start will help him and his young son Jake heal. A new beginning, a new house, a new town. Featherbank.

But the town has a dark past. Twenty years ago, a serial killer abducted and murdered five residents. Until Frank Carter was finally caught, he was nicknamed "The Whisper Man," for he would lure his victims out by whispering at their windows at night.

Just as Tom and Jake settle into their new home, a young boy vanishes. His disappearance bears an unnerving resemblance to Frank Carter's crimes, reigniting old rumors that he preyed with an accomplice. Now, detectives Amanda Beck and Pete Willis must find the boy before it is too late, even if that means Pete has to revisit his great foe in prison: The Whisper Man.

And then Jake begins acting strangely. He hears a whispering at his window...

The first offering from 'Alex North' offers the beautiful writing and exquisite plotting that crimelovers have found in the author's prior work (several very fine crime novels), meshed with a dark and chilling storyline that strikes at the heart of family and may (should) catapult the author to greater attention and a wider readership. 

Widower Tom Kennedy and his young son Jake are both struggling with the loss of the woman at the centre of their world. Tom hopes a move to the village of Featherbank will give both of them a fresh start. He feels like he's struggling as a father and that he needs to do something to help his son.

When a young boy vanishes, the town’s dark past returns. Twenty years ago, ‘the Whisper Man’ prowled, killing five people before being caught. While Detective Amanda Beck is the lead on the new disappearance, its eerie similarities to the Whisper Man means that ageing Detective Pete Willis aboard too. For it was Willis that brought down the Whisper Man, and Willis with whom the Whisper Man still occasionally toys.

Is the new foe linked to the historic murders and a killer that's fallen into local folklore? Could this be a copycat, or did the Whisper Man have an accomplice, as some cops and others often wondered?

Meanwhile strange things start to happen at Tom’s new home, and Jake hears whispering outside.

North sets the hook early and crafts a compulsive tale that hurtles along (a one-sitting kind of book) while being textured with plenty of depth. THE WHISPER MAN is a compulsive tale with a dark heart - but that's a notable thing too; the book has real heart to it. It's a creepy page-turner that's also a story of fathers and sons, a story of families and nightmares, and of the price paid for past mistakes and the struggle to put things right.

For my money, this will be one of the top thrillers of the northern summer, which given all the great books coming out lately and soon, is high praise indeed. A terrific first bow from 'North', a top-notch dark thriller.

Craig Sisterson is a lawyer turned features writer from New Zealand, now living in London. In recent years he’s interviewed hundreds of crime writers and talked about the genre on national radio, top podcasts, and onstage at books festivals on three continents. He has been a judge of the Ned Kelly Awards and the McIlvanney Prize, and is founder of the Ngaio Marsh Awards and co-founder of Rotorua Noir. You can heckle him on Twitter. 

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