The Whispering House

The walls at Byrne Hall seem to whisper. In British author Elizabeth Brooks's spooky and captivating thriller, The Whispering House, that's what Freya Lyell notices when she travels to the stately yet dilapidated mansion for a wedding, and discovers its mysterious connection to her sister's death. An aspiring poet, 23-year-old Freya is immediately enchanted by handsome painter Cory Byrne, who lives in the house with his ailing mother, Diana. Having spent the last five years grieving for her sister Stella, Freya is eager to cast aside her old life and plunge headfirst into what she calls her "Bohemian idyll" with Cory--but it won't be that easy. As their love affair becomes all-consuming, Freya's youth and naïveté often work against her. She continues to explain away Cory's increasingly controlling and dangerous behavior--and overlook his shocking connection to Stella.

Set near the sea in late autumn, this unsettling story about heartache and yearning is filled with bone-chilling breezes, taunting ghosts and maddening isolation. Despite the story's thematic depth, Brooks's (The Orphan of Salt Winds) sweeping prose feels fresh and often surprising, packed with rich metaphors suitable for a thoughtful, observant narrator like Freya: "The page was yellow in the candlelight--smooth, pure, and inviting. It was like fresh snow at sunrise, when you stand at the back door and look down at the garden, loathe to mark it with your footprints yet longing to do exactly that." Equal turns tender and haunting, this gothic tale shows how people's experiences shape them, for better or for worse. --Angela Lutz, freelance reviewer

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