Twenty years ago, the Whisper Man abducted three children. DI Pete Willis was in charge of the investigation and captured the Whisper Man, but he was a little too late. As well as the three boys they knew of another boy was missing and Frank Carter (the Whisper Man) would never tell him where the body was.
Neil Spencer has gone missing and it’s just like it was all that time ago. Only now, Pete is twenty years older and no longer in charge. Amanda Beck is leading this investigation and, to be honest, is struggling to find Neil.
A young single father and his son move in to the area after Rebecca, the wife and mother, had passed away. They wanted to make a fresh start in the town of Featherbank, but this was definitely not what they had in mind.
Tom and Jake are fragile and raw after the loss of Rebecca and they moved to a new town with no friends and no ties. Watching them rely on each other for all of their support whilst dealing with something horrible is the emotional narrative of this book. The dynamic of a father who thinks he’s doing a terrible job and a young son who deals with the trauma through imaginary friends is really interesting, it’s written beautifully and with great insight. Tom has had a very difficult history with family, his father was an alcoholic and he lost his mother to illness, Jake is all he has and he is desperate token them close to each other. These two characters and how they cope is definitely the highlight of this novel.
DI Pete is trying to deal with his past demons as well; he also had a dark past with an abusive father and issues with alcoholism himself. We watch as he does everything he can to keep from going off the rails. He is loyal and strong-willed, a hero that the story needs with obsessive rules and routine.
The themes of family loss and difficulties are the subplot to a gruesome narrative about serial killers and the people that obsessively adore them. There are some unexpected elements to The Whisper Man that show us the darker side of infamy. Pete finds out just how famous Frank Carter really is in certain circles and we are all shocked by the way his ‘fans’ show their love. Frank begins to believe himself as a god and it isn’t difficult to see why, especially whilst someone is copying his movements twenty years later.
With all of the great character writing and perspectives the main thing that let this book down in my eyes is the story. The plot is predictable and the twists and turns can be seen from a mile away. This crime drama of a copy-cat killer has been played to death and, unfortunately Alex North didn’t really bring anything new to the table. As I was reading it I could see the BBC mini-series beginning to take place right in front of me. I’m sure there are a lot of people to whom that sounds appealing but I was left feeling underwhelmed.
And, although the characters are well written, they are not likeable. I found it tough to root for anyone or really invest myself in to their lives. All the characters lived in their paranoia and mistrust of everyone else and, although that makes a good character point it becomes tedious when it’s everyone and it’s all the time. Even Jake spent the majority of the novel worried if his dad didn’t like him or hang morbid arguments with bullies in school. There needs to be someone that the reader can trust and will challenge everyones reluctance to help drive the narrative.
As crime dramas go, The Whisper Man was well-written and engaging, it dug in to the psychological toll of losing a family member and the effects of a miserable childhood. All of the major characters had fathers that mistreated them and everyone around them, and all three of them grew up to be very different people. There was the message of the story; how a person is shaped by their parents in ways that can’t be predicted or understood until it is too late.
I would recommend The Whisper Man to crime drama fans, if that is your genre then this book really gives you everything you want. The plot isn’t original, I stand by that. But it’s strong and very dark, it left me jaw-dropped at times. After reading The Whisper Man I (someone who never really liked crime novels) am more inclined to pick up another one.