The Whispering House – gothic and atmospheric


  • Enjoy gothic stories
  • Want a murder mystery
  • Want an atmospheric read

TitleThe Whispering House | Author: Elizabeth Brooks | Rating: 4/5

Considering the lower Goodreads rating on this book (3.01 out of 5), I didn’t have high hopes for this story. I ended up devouring it when delayed at an airport because of stormy weather (fitting for the novel) ad during the plane ride home.

Freya Lyell is struggling to move on from her sister Stella’s suicide five years ago. Visiting the bewitching Byrne Hall, only a few miles from the scene of the tragedy, she discovers a portrait of Stella – a portrait she had no idea existed, in a house Stella never set foot in. Or so she thought.

Driven to find out more about her sister’s secrets, Freya is drawn into the world of Byrne Hall and its owners: charismatic artist Cory and his sinister, watchful mother. But as Freya’s relationship with Cory crosses the line into obsession, the darkness behind the locked doors of Byrne Hall threatens to spill out.

It reads not quite like the classic gothics (Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, etc.) but it holds its own atmosphere and gothic intent all the same. It’s a mix of a haunted house story, with a murder mystery, a deranged and abusive artist, a stifling environment, and, of course, inauspicious love interests.

I felt transported into the stifling and enigmatic atmosphere, and half-wanted to get on another plane to the Scottish moors and find Byrne Hall myself and wander its dark, foreboding innards.

The story certainly had a simplicity to it, and towards the end, I thought events were wrapped up too neatly and too rushed. All the same, the plot, the characters, and the mystery were enough to hold my attention. What I liked most, though, was the atmosphere. This book is all atmosphere, and I felt the same sense of claustrophobia Freya, the main character, felt while at Byrne Hall. The house, and the other characters living in it, are withering shells of who they used to be, or even who they should be. They’re almost caricatures of their past, and the rot within spills out throughout the story.

The Whispering House was unexpectedly and delicious gothic novel, perfect for a vacation read, or to curl up with during a thunderstorm. It’s not a gothic classic, but it’s a gothic modern and does justice to the genre.

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