Name of Reviewer: Gill Chedgey
Publisher: HQ, May 2021
ISBN: 9780008238735, PB
‘“Best“ friend returns to toxic friendship after falling out’ could hardly be considered a genre! But there have been enough of them over the years so I was initially underwhelmed when I came across the House of Whispers. But this has a twist in it that I didn’t see coming till I was fast approaching the conclusion. A twist that turned the story into a psychological tour de force as Abby and Grace explore old memories and routines.
It’s a chilling read at times and it has what I like to call the Patricia Highsmith effect where the normal and mundane are out of sync, off centre and create a deep unease in the reader as the story spirals to its shocking conclusion.
Thematically it’s a tale of obsession and guilt. Our empathy is guided very much toward Abi, rather than Grace. Abi seems so vulnerable, almost a cliche of the tortured artist feverishly creating to exorcise the demons within. But the true nature of these demons is revealed a bit by bit as the truth emerges. I was momentarily prompted to think Dorian Gray as Abi worked on her suite of portraits but the comparison lost impetus as the story progressed.
Some well drawn characters populate the novel, Abi’s well-intentioned and concerned husband, Rohan, his almost overbearing mother, Meena, and indeed the rest of his family but it’s always Abby and Grace who take centre stage. I suppose one could also include the house as another character for it does impose the hints and suggestions of its past on the story.
The structure of the narrative draws the reader in from the beginning transcript of an interview with Abi’s husband. Right away I was thinking, Who is Abigail, what has she done? Is it a police interview, a lawyer interview? An opening like that can’t fail to peak your curiosity. The transcripts occur from time to time throughout the rest of the narrative still not giving anything away as to who might be conducting the interviews. Very clever.
It would be a disservice to give too much of the story away because it relies on the shock twists to work and I refuse to be Miss Spoiler 2021 but that makes it hard to review. Suffice to say a tense and heavy atmosphere is created and sustained throughout. There’s a lot of emotion in the book too particularly where Abi is concerned. Some of the action is also a little unsettling and upsetting.
If I might be a little contrary I would’ve preferred the last chapter to have been omitted! To say why would require me to give more detail about the actual plot and I’m unwilling to do so but the preceding shocker would to my mind be a great place to end the book!