So I read this a couple of weeks ago, but have been horrible at getting around to writing a review – looks like having a grown-up job in books affects my thinking about books outside of work!
But yes, Whisper Down the Lane by Clay McLeod Chapman. This is an adult horror novel about the power of rumours, set in a dual timeline between Richard as a teacher and his childhood, when he was still called Sean. It is disconcerting and addictive, and I definitely recommend it if it sounds like your cup of tea!
Many thanks to Jamie-Lee Nardone and Stephen Haskins at Black Crow PR and Quirk Books for sending me an ARC. All opinions are my own.
STAR RATING: 4/5 ✶
RELEASE DATE: 06/04/21
SUMMARY: Richard doesn’t have a past. For him, there is only the present: a new marriage to Tamara, a first chance at fatherhood to her son Elijah, and a quiet but pleasant life as an art teacher at Elijah’s elementary school in Danvers, Virginia. Then the body of a rabbit, ritualistically murdered, appears on the school grounds with a birthday card for Richard tucked beneath it. Richard doesn’t have a birthday—but Sean does . . .
Sean is a five-year-old boy who has just moved to Greenfield, Virginia, with his mother. Like most mothers of the 1980s, she’s worried about bills, childcare, putting food on the table . . . and an encroaching threat to American life that can take the face of anyone: a politician, a friendly neighbor, or even a teacher. When Sean’s school sends a letter to the parents revealing that Sean’s favorite teacher is under investigation, a white lie from Sean lights a fire that engulfs the entire nation—and Sean and his mother are left holding the match.
Now, thirty years later, someone is here to remind Richard that they remember what Sean did. And though Sean doesn’t exist anymore, someone needs to pay the price for his lies. (from Quirk Books)
OPINIONS: This is an incredibly addictive psychological horror novel. Whisper Down the Lane uses the dual timeline to tell the story of what happened thirty years ago, while mirroring it in present day. The person at the heart of both storylines is the same, in one as a boy accusing his teacher of abuse, and in the other as a teacher being accused of similar things. It is disconcerting and uncomfortable at times – which for me is important in a horror novel.
What I found most terrifying is the depiction of the child storyline, where you can see how adults projecting their fears affects Sean, and how things escalate because he is trying to tell them what they want to hear. This idea of rumours spreading and lives being ruined is something that is really scary to me. Social opinion really does ruin lives, and usually due to things that aren’t true, while the people who actually do despicable things end up scot-free.
But then, the actions of Sean, the five-year-old start haunting Richard, adult teacher. The parallel stories mesh together really well, and the ending is very satisfying. It is unexpected and well done – I was worried that it would be something weird or unrealistic, so I was very pleasantly surprised. Added to that is that there is no clear-cut evil in the story. It shows all the perspectives and how someone acting in the way they believe is right and best and being thorougly misguided.