Thursday, July 11, 2013

Whisper By Michael Bray

Review by Jacey
It was supposed to be a fresh start, a place for Steve and Melody Samson to start their new life together away from the noise and crime of the city. However, their new home--an idyllic cottage nestled deep within the dense solitude of Oakwell forest has a disturbing history, hidden for generations by the local villagers,who are desperate to keep their sleepy town free from potential media attention. As Steve and Melody being to notice the strange and bizarre things that are happening to them, they begin to unravel the complex web of lies and deceit perpetrated by the locals. Told both in a modern day narrative and flashback to the building's construction in the 1800s, we learn of the terrible things that reside within Hope House, and the reasons for the history of murder, suicide and insanity for the previous owners of the house. As Steve and Melody delve deeper, they are plagued not only by the malevolent forces that reside within the house, but also the very real attention of the increasingly unstable realtor Donovan, who has horrific secrets of his own that he will go to any lengths to keep a secret.       

Hello everyone! It's been over a month since I last posted and I apologize for the absence. When I heard Michael Bray was coming out with a full length book, I immediately requested a copy for review, having read his previous venture "Dark Corners" and being scared out of my wits by his short stories filled with demons, the macabre, gore, horror, the like. When I read the synopsis, it almost sounded like a murder mystery which took me back just a bit, but knowing also that it must also be paranormal, I began to read. The opening was amazing, it had everything that I enjoyed from the previous book. And then suddenly, I couldn't help but feel like that momentum unraveled. In fact, I had a very hard time feeling any sort of momentum after the book's opening. The thrills that I expected from Bray just seemed to fall flat for a large portion of this book.

What I think made it incredibly difficult for me to get the chills in this novel was the fact that every five seconds, the reader is told that the main characters are feeling uneasy, or that the atmosphere of the house is making them uneasy, or that person is making them uneasy, or hey that room over yonder is making me anxious. I felt like there was this constant bombardment of Bray telling us that something was wrong with barely a hint of skepticism. We get it, this is a horror book, and something is definitely wrong with the house. That's why we picked it up, because we wanted to be freaked out and thrilled, not told every five seconds that something is amiss. 

I kept telling myself maybe this was one way of building up to a bigger scene, like we were going to find something out that was going to blow our minds, as Bray did in his previous work. Unfortunately I didn't see this either, as most of what was going on at the house is pretty much explained blatantly rather than subtly through all these flash backs. In fact, you pretty much get why the house and the land around it is cursed by the end of chapter 5. So, the whole interweaving of narratives kind of flopped in this. I feel that maybe if a few of  the narratives from the past were placed farther into the book, then we would be more surprised, not knowing where the curse came from. Not rereading over and over again what we already have deduced. 

Additionally, I really found myself disliking the protagonist in this. In fact, I wondered if perhaps by the end of this book Steve would finally just be like "Know what Melody? You really do not take my feelings into account, I'm gone." And know what? I probably would have cheered him out the door. They're described to be such a close couple, and yet when it's super plain that Steve doesn't like being there (I mean, we know that he gets anxious every five seconds in this story) or is upset, Melody kind of pushes it aside, and you don't really feel sorry for her at all when things start going down. Additionally, I felt like towards the end that Melody kept flipping sides, like one second she was freaking out that all of this supernatural crazy stuff was happening, and then the next she's screaming at her husband for being a paranoid freak. I thought the main antagonist, Donovan, was an interesting, twisted character and definitely piqued my morbid interest. Sadly, I felt like he lacked a sense of purpose. It seemed he was simply destined to cause random bursts of mayhem for the couple and to play the typical slasher, like one you'd see in a B movie. 

There seemed to also be a swapping in opinion between minor characters. One second William from the bar wants to tell Steve about the house, the next second he doesn't want Melody to know but Mrs. Briggs wants them to know, THEN she doesn't want them to know about the house and Will says they need the whole reason that they hide the house seemed muddled and kind of thrown together. Also, in 1809, the house was being constructed by a British company. I mean, that could make sense...except that was cutting it pretty close to the War of 1812, where America did not have fantastic relations with the British at that time because of the British impressing American sailors into the Royal Navy. Maybe I'm digging too much, but there it is. 
There are several scenes that emote the building terror I was familiar with in Bray's previous work, and they're definitely worth a look. Overall though, I feel like there could have been a much slower build up of suspense. Additionally, there needed to be more consistency in the character's opinions. Plenty of moments gut wrenching moments though which was pretty awesome, so If you're looking for a twisted kick, Bray's got several for you in this. I think if one were to edit this, I would take out at least 75% of the sentences describing the characters having a bad feeling and try balancing the skepticism between Melody and Steve. I'd be interested in reading that.

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