4 Stars Reviews

Book Review: Whistle in the Dark by Emma Healey

When Jen and Hugh Maddox’s daughter, Lana, goes missing on an art retreat in the Peak District, they fear the worst. But four days later, Lana is found, bruised and bleeding but alive. When they ask her what happened, and where she had been, her only answers are ‘I got lost’ and ‘I can’t remember’. The family try to return to their normal lives, but Jen’s need to know what happened leaders to her constant surveillance of Lana’s life, driving them further and further apart, until Jen’s obsession steers her into dangerous territory.

The relief Jen had felt at seeing Lana again was turning into something
else, and though she mostly wanted to bundle her up and rock her
and feel the weight of her and do anything she could to convince herself
that her daughter was really okay, there was a thin thread of
dread within her, too. She was frightened to tug on it but knew
she wouldn’t be able to resist for long.

I was a bit wary of this book, as it has had mixed reviews and mediocre responses, but I went into it with an open mind and not too many expectations and I’m so glad I did.

I think the mistake I could have easily made is presuming this was a thriller: a terrible mystery that would be solved with a dramatic and climatic reveal. It’s categorically not that. Yes, there is the mystery of where Lana disappeared to for four days, but Whistle in the Dark is definitely more about Jen than it is Lana, and about Jen’s struggle to come to terms with not knowing what happened. I loved getting to know the characters in this novel and experiencing the highs and lows of their relationships. It was particularly refreshing to see a middle-aged married couple that actually seemed to get on and support each other like Jen and Hugh. Maybe it’s just what I’ve been reading, but I feel like a lot of novels depict this kind of relationship in quite negative ways so I enjoyed reading about their comfortable romance and mutual support.

I liked following Jen’s theories about what happened to Lana, as she attempts to piece together the little information that she’s managed to gather. When I was first getting into the book I did begin to worry that the story would end without having ever actually explained where Lana was for those four days, and I was ready to be disappointed. In fact, as I read on, I found myself enjoying the mystery as it was and my need to know lessened as I focused more on Jen’s relationship to the mystery. And we do eventually find out what happened, but by that point, I didn’t exactly need to know anyway – that’s not what the story was about.

It was a strange little book that took me a while to settle into but I ultimately really enjoyed the story.

Rating: 4 / 5 stars

Read for the NEWTs Magical Readathon. Class: Defence Against the Dark Arts. Grade: A.

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