15 March 2013, $2.99, eBook
Reviewed by Michael R. Collings
Michael Bray’s novel, Whisper, is a more than creditable entry into the lists of horror. It adroitly combines several time-tested motifs into a single, well-developed and well-constructed story:
A plot of ground forever made anathema by an aboriginal curse, in this case stemming from the blood-thirsty Gogoku, 16th century natives destroyed by their own greed and madness;
A house haunted by a centuries-long, sanguine history of cruelty, death, and suicide;
A small town harboring a deadly past that has obsessed them for generations and that they will do anything to preserve;
A book of secrets that reveals all, but only at a perilous cost;
A young couple—city folk and strangers—who buy a fixer-upper at an unusually low cost, only to discover that the true cost is far more than they are willing to pay;
A pillar of the community who is himself as much a monster as those that live in the impenetrable forest surrounding Hope House.
Bray manages to weave all of these into a solid, frighteningly suspenseful tale, with characters that are readily recognizable—the village gossip who sees much and says little; the local barkeep, privy to secrets but chary of revealing them too openly; the local businessman whose private business must never be known—but that never descend into stereotypes. Throughout, Bray maintains tight control over his story, his landscape, his characters.
There are occasional lapses, as with any novel, but rarely are they sufficient to draw attention away from the story itself. I would have preferred that the novel have been more carefully edited—it shows an uneven uses of commas, for example, and a quirky application of the rules for semi-colons—but on the whole, the story was engaging and enjoyable. Certainly worth the cost and the investment of time to read.