reviewed by Sandra Hoover
Seeking a quiet, safe place to live and raise a family, Stina and Jack move out of the crime ridden city into an old, neglected cottage in the small village of Avoncote. Rolling up their sleeves, they begin working to make their new home cozy and charming – like the beautiful semi-attached cottage next door occupied by an eccentric old lady named Mrs. Barley.
It soon becomes obvious that the locals avoid that cottage and Mrs. Barley like the plague. Rumors of witchcraft and spells spread wide and far – along with warnings to stay away from her, and yet for the most part, Mrs. Barley is nothing but sweet and kind to Stina and Jack. Working as a vet, Jack spends long hours away from home and thus doesn’t hear or see the unsettling happenings when they begin occurring as Stina does. A strange man wandering in Mrs. Barley’s courtyard that no one else admits to seeing, strange scraping sounds coming from the shared attic late at night, Mrs. Barley’s chanting while sitting in a circle of candles, Mrs. Barley’s sudden mood swings and weird little dolls – all lead Stina to begin her own ill-timed investigation . . . and eventually question her own sanity. Is something sinister lurking in the cottage next door . . . or is Stina succumbing to the same mental illness as her mother? Is their new home a safe haven . . . or their worst nightmare?
Whisper Cottage is a tense, gripping read that captures you in the eerie prologue and holds you prisoner until the final shocking revelation – I’m talking edge-of-your-seat suspense. Through brilliant manipulation of prose, Clark sets and maintains a chilling atmosphere of impending doom throughout the story – a dark tone fueled by vicious rumors, life-altering secrets, sinister happenings, hints of mental instability and paranormal vibes. Stina is an unreliable narrator and through flashbacks, readers become aware of her buried secrets including the source of her mental concerns. And while it’s obvious Mrs. Barley is hiding something, her role is so well played that some of her scenes made me think of grandmothers baking apple pies while others gave me chill bumps. Who is she? Good? Evil? Is Stina the only one who “sees?” Or has she slipped into insanity? A dangerous vibe permeates the pages as this story unfolds. I turned pages cautiously – almost afraid to see what would happen next. Whisper Cottage is a chilling story that whispers warnings . . . beware your secrets less they bury you alive. Fans of mystery and suspense are going to gobble this one up. The perfect read for a dark, foggy night.