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First published back in September of 2013, ‘Whisper’ formed the first instalment in British horror author Michael Bray’s supernatural horror ‘Whisper Trilogy’.

DLS Synopsis:
Steve and Melody Samson had decided to get themselves out of the New York rat race and relocate to somewhere much quieter, with a more rural backdrop.  When Melody saw Hope House - an old colonial style cottage located deep in the immense Oakwell Forest - she decided then and there that it would be their next home.  However her husband wasn’t convinced.  For some reason he didn’t feel at ease with the aging property or its tree-encircled surroundings.  But in life he wanted nothing more than to please his wife, so after their offer was accepted, the couple soon became the new owners of the seemingly idyllic Hope House.

However, unbeknown to the young couple, the old cottage had a long and unsettling history.  Back in the early 16th century a terrible tribe of incestuous cannibals known at the Gogokus lived in the forest that surrounded the area where Hope House now stood.  The Gogoku Elders burnt the village down, slaughtering their young before walking into the flames themselves.  Their blood seeping into the very earth where the trees grew.  Their heinous actions cursing the land forever more.

Three centuries later, against numerous warnings from those that knew of the land’s past, property developer Michael Jones built the isolated Hope House deep in the cursed Oakwell Forest.  Located just a stone’s throw away from the cottage was where the Gogoku village had once been.  The spot now an eerie circular clearing in the forest with an atmosphere that felt sterile and all around everything remained unnaturally quiet.

Steve was the first to notice that something wasn’t quite right with their new property.  It began with quiet whispers, only just detectable within the sound of the wind as it blew through the surrounding trees.  However he heard them.  He knew they were there.  But he didn’t know what they wanted.

Unbeknown to them, Steve and Melody Samson had put themselves in the vicinity of an evil that had been dormant for decades within the deepest reaches of the Oakwell Forest.  And with just one small, seemingly innocent action, they had woken that evil…

DLS Review:

Here we have that classic time-tested supernatural premise of a young couple moving to an isolated property and finding there’s more in the surrounding woodlands than just bats and owls.  Yeah, it’s not exactly a new idea – not by a long shot.  But if such stories are done well, it’s still fertile enough ground for plenty of entertaining and creepyass horror thrills.

Michael Bray’s first instalment in this supernatural-heavy trilogy is one that’s predominantly geared towards getting the various mechanics behind the plot laid out - with its century-old history painting a far larger picture and spanning the horror across a vast span of time.

The initial third-or-so of the tale reads like a re-envisioning of James Herbert’s ‘The Magic Cottage’ (1986) only with a slighter more sinister edge to it.  Throw into the equation a sleazy psychopathic estate agent named Donovan and you’ve got some pretty damn good gristle for the evolving storyline to get its teeth into.

Furthermore this similarity with ‘The Magic Cottage’ (1986) isn’t the only noticeable link between Bray and the great horror master.  Bray writes like a young James Herbert apprentice.  The respectful influence is evident throughout the novel.  There’s that gradual pacing, with the self-gaining momentum behind the story that seemingly pushes it onwards, rather than the need to keep unveiling momentous twists in the plot.  Furthermore Bray doesn’t shirk away from embracing a more traditional chill factor – with supernatural sounds and age-old evil spirits rubbing shoulders with a Richard Laymon-style psychopathic nutjob.  Even the sleepy town setting is textbook Herbert.

Characterisation is also solid and well-developed throughout.  Indeed, our two principal characters are easy to sympathise with and have enough meat on their bones to make them suitably believable.

But I guess the novel’s greatest strength is in the escalating eeriness that infiltrates the novel from the start, festering away until it’s become a dark and ugly beast poised to swallow you up.  In fact, Bray’s masterfully set the whole thing on an uneasy edge – with an unsettling undertone quickly established which is then drip-fed those all-important snippets of something unmistakenly dark and evil.  Of course these scenes of supernatural horror become more and more frequent as the pieces start falling together and the true horror behind it all is unveiled.

And with all the nastiness culminating in a suitably impressive final sequence, Bray wraps his first instalment in the trilogy up pretty damn nicely – leaving it as both a standalone tale, as well as the initial foundations for the larger ‘Whisper Trilogy’ story.

The novel runs for a total of 327 pages.

© DLS Reviews

Other ‘Whisper Trilogy’ instalments:

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