First published back in May of 2014, ‘Echoes’ formed the second instalment into British horror author Michael Bray’s supernatural horror ‘Whisper Trilogy’.

DLS Synopsis:
Seven years had passed since Hope House had burnt to the ground on the night that both Steve and Melody Samson had almost lost their lives.  Since then a two mile perimeter had been erected cordoning off the site in Oakwell forest and labelling it a no access zone.  The large chain-link fences being patrolled regularly by two security guards accompanied by vicious attack dogs to deter any would be souvenir hunters.

Steve and Melody hadn’t returned to Oakwell since that fateful night – let alone the secluded clearing in Oakwell Forest where Hope House had once stood.  Because of the severe burns Steve had suffered he was no longer able to produce any further music.  Furthermore the couple hadn’t insured either Hope House or their possessions prior to the fire.  As such their lives had become full of difficulties and financial struggles - faced with no money or possessions and increasingly large medical bills to pay.

Meanwhile, as a result of the events at Hope House, along with revelations about Donovan’s murderous past (which were unearthed after the fire), the once sleepy town of Oakwell had started to attract a great deal of unwanted attention from outsiders.  However, Councillor Henry Marshall had a plan.  Why fight this surge of unwanted attention when they could be cashing in on the tourism?

Together with his brother Dane Marshall (presenter of the long-running “Paranormal Truth” TV series) Henry planned to build a hotel on the very ground where Hope House once stood in hope of reaping the rewards from paranormal enthusiasts.

But as construction of the hotel gets underway, Marshall’s ruthless manner towards the success of the project starts to take over.  He has big plans for a grand opening.   A televised paranormal investigation that will undoubtedly draw in the crowds whilst putting his hotel firmly on the map.  But to do that he needed Steve and Melody there at the grand opening.  And he’d do whatever was necessary to bring them back to Oakwell.

But the evil that was in the very earth of Oakwell forest had been stirring.  It had been whispering to Marshall.  And it wanted revenge…

DLS Review:
Although the tale’s set seven years after the events told within ‘Whisper’ (2013), Michael Bray’s second instalment in his supernatural ‘Whisper’ trilogy covers very similar ground to that of the first instalment – albeit with a lot less emphasis on the history behind the cursed ground and the Gogoku tribe and more on the continuation of the curse.

There’s also less of a drive to create a suspenseful atmosphere (admittedly this was mostly established in the first book through the slowly unravelling mystery element).  Instead, with the sequel we have a tale that simply returns to its roots and from here starts to rework another new sequence of events out from this perfectly fertile ground.  Don’t get me wrong – this isn’t by any stretch of the imagination a lazy or bad move by the author.  If anything it could be seen as quite a brave decision to take – utilising the core blueprint of a previous book to create a whole new tale whilst avoiding replication or doing the original tale any disservice.

Pace-wise the sequel also has a similar footing to the first book, although here Bray hasn’t got the luxury of an unravelling mystery to keep the momentum going.  Instead Bray utilises the time-honoured tradition of flinging a bunch of hapless hormone-driven teenagers into the equation.  Couple that with a ruthless councillor who’s got his mind set on capitalising on the whole ‘supernatural phenomena’ in Oakwell – and you’ve got something that’s plenty different enough from the first book to get the horrorlific blood pumping once again.

As far as scenes of horror, supernatural eeriness, or gruesome gut-churning blood splatter are concerned, it has to be said that ‘Echoes’ is somewhat lacking compared to what the (utterly superb) cover artwork by Stu Smith might suggest is contained within its pages.  For the first two-thirds or so of the book there’s very little more than just a build-up towards the inevitable big finale.  That’s not to say that there’s not enough within this initial portion of the tale to keep the reader engaged.  There’s plenty of suggestive supernatural influencing and ruthless business practices to ensnare the reader.  And with the promise of a hotel grand opening on the very spot where Hope House once stood – the anticipation alone is enough to fuel the literary motor for the vast majority of the tale.

And fair do’s to Bray – when it’s time to buckle-up and start delivering the grisly horror, he gets to work with the imagination and flair of a man on a mission.  The last third or so of the tale is most definitely worth the wait.  Bray’s set all the pieces up perfectly, and now it’s time to knock ‘em all down with some gruesome gorehound supernatural slaughter.

Okay, so ‘Echoes’ isn’t going to blow your mind with eeriness or suspense.   It’s not going to bludgeon you in the face with relentless splatter or over-the-top gore.  It’s not terribly horrific or brutal or particularly chilling. However instead what you have is a solidly-written supernatural horror story that weaves together a handful of interesting threads to create a tightly-written tale that simply entertains.  It’s one of those tales that’s just an absolute pleasure to read.

Wrap up warm, shut the curtains, and dim the lights for a grim and bloody return to the eeriness of Oakwell forest.

The novel runs for a total of 328 pages.

© DLS Reviews

Other ‘Whisper Trilogy’ instalments:

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