EXCERPT: There were several villages within spitting distance of the practice, which was just outside Stratford-Upon-Avon. Jack was enthusiastic about living close to the surgery, declaring that he could even cycle to work in the warmer weather. Eventually we had plumped for picturesque Avoncote, largely because of the house we had discovered there. We fell in love with Whisper Cottage at first sight. It was one of two semi-detached houses, set apart on a short stretch of road towards the centre of the hamlet. Uneven cobbles winding to a frontage festooned with lilac blooms beneath a thatched roof; endearingly small and perfect newlyweds expecting their first child. Yes, there was a good deal of work to be done, and we were going to have to throw some serious money at the place – something we could ill afford, the mortgage stretching us to the limit – but the location was ideal, and the house had such potential. We moved in at the end of April, the whole summer stretching out before us, leaving several months to prepare for our upcoming arrival.
The chocolate-box village itself, quintessentially English and slightly twee, with its small, close-knit community, seemed like the answer to our prayers. It was like something out of a Miss Marple novel. There was a village green, complete with stocks – thankfully no longer in use. It even boasted a maypole. Next to the green, a large circular duck pond was enclosed by a low wooden barrier. The spire of a beautiful old church pierced the skyline, its immaculately maintained graveyard filled with generations of village’s former occupants. Beyond the church, a canal passed through the village, the towpath providing a scenic walk towards the centre of Stratford.
ABOUT ‘WHISPER COTTAGE’: When Stina and Jack move to an old rural cottage, they’re hoping for a fresh start. Their new home is run-down compared to their neighbour’s, but generous Mrs Barley quickly becomes a friend.
Until Stina sees a mysterious figure in the widow’s garden, and her happy new life begins to unravel. And when she hears strange noises in the night, she is forced to question if Mrs Barley is what she seems.
Why do the other villagers whisper about her? Why is she so eager to help the couple? And what is she hiding in her picture-perfect home?
MY THOUGHTS: First off, I am going to state that I don’t consider Whisper Cottage to be a psychological thriller. In my eyes, it is more of a mystery, and a very good one, a very enjoyable one.
Whisper Cottage is a slow burner. Clark takes her time in setting the scene, but I liked the way she did this, sewing little and seemingly inconsequential seeds of doubt that niggle like a burr caught in your clothing that you just can’t find to remove.
The opening chapter is set in 1964, and gives no clue as to who is involved. This doesn’t become apparent until later in the book.
In real time, we learn about Stina’s background, her mother’s mental instability, and her own fears that she may follow in her mother’s footsteps. Husband Jack is the sensible one, soothing Stina and quietening her fears.
Mrs Barley, their elderly next door neighbour, is lovely and kind to Stina and Jack, making them welcome and plying them with her home cooking. But why do the rest of the villagers have nothing to do with the old lady? What is behind their warnings to Stina to keep her at a distance? And why do bad things happen to those who cross her?
Who is the mystery man? The one that sneaks in and out of Mrs Barley’s summerhouse, the one that no one but Stina has seen, the man Mrs Barley claims she has no knowledge of.
And there’s also the unexplained noises from the attic in the middle of the night. Yes, there are things that go ‘bump’ in the night . . .
I loved the gradual ramping up of tension, the way the author left me hanging as normal life resumed, the oddities seemingly swept under the carpet by Jack’s logic, but lingering like ghostly presences.
If you like a slightly creepy mystery, with a few clever twists, then I am recommending Whisper Cottage. I loved it, and will be looking for more to read from this author. NOTE: At the time of writing this review I was unaware that this is Anne Wyn Clark’s debut novel. An excellent debut, and an author worth watching.
Lauren Moakes was the narrator, and her smooth, honeyed speech was well suited to this story and added to my enjoyment.
I: #annewynclark #harpercollinsukaudio @avonbooksuk
T: @EAClarkAuthor @HarperCollinsUK @AvonBooksUK
#audiobook #contemporaryfiction #mystery #suspense
THE AUTHOR: Anne Wyn Clark lives in the Midlands with her husband and son, plus a rather temperamental cat, a rabbit and a chinchilla. She has three (now grown-up) children and five grandchildren. She is particularly partial to Italian food, decent red wine (or any coloured wine come to that…) and cake – and has been known to over-indulge in each on occasions. She has a penchant for visiting old graveyards and speculating on the demise of those entombed beneath. (Amazon)
DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Harper Collins UK audio, Avon via Netgalley for providing an audio ARC of Whisper Cottage written by Anne Wyn Clark and narrated by Lauren Moakes for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.
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