Title: Whistle in the Dark
Author: Emma Healey
Publisher: Viking, Penguin Books in May 2018
Summary: from publisher
Four missing days. Could you cope with not knowing?
Jen’s 15-year-old daughter goes missing for four agonizing days. When Lana is found, unharmed, in the middle of the desolate countryside, everyone thinks the worst is over. But Lana refuses to tell anyone what happened, and the police draw a blank. The once-happy, loving family return to London, where things start to fall apart. Lana begins acting strangely: refusing to go to school, and sleeping with the light on.
As Lana stays stubbornly silent, Jen desperately tries to reach out to a daughter who has become a stranger.
I haven’t read this author’s previous book ‘Elizabeth is Missing’ but I do remember hearing a lot about it, so I was quite excited to read her latest book ‘Whistle in the Dark’. The first page immediately drew me in, it is pretty unusual to start at the point where the missing girl is found and then covering the aftermath and I found this immediately intriguing. The mystery lies in discovering what happened to Lana whilst she was gone and how the whole family adjusts to her return. The characters are realistic, the narrator is Lana’s mother Jen and throughout the novel I felt that so many different aspects of her personality were slowly explored and revealed. The relationship between mother and daughter is a real focal point of the novel. I felt this was a really skilful portrayal of the difficulties of a mother trying to relate to her teenage daughter and the disappointment when she is totally unable to do so. Their relationship is so full of tension and at times it is actually quite painful to read because it felt so real. The issue of mental health, particularly depression is something that is dealt with well in this book. The author does a beautiful job of showing how depression can overwhelm a person completely and change their personality into something else entirely. There is also a focus on the effect that dealing with a child with mental health issues can have on the rest of the family. The author explored these issues with great subtlety which added another layer to the story.
Another interesting aspect of Whistle in the Dark was the structure the author used. The book is made up of lots of mini chapters of variable lengths, some very short and with different headings. There were many short chapters which take the reader out of the main story and explains something about a character or a flashback to the past. I found this style very effective as I have never read something quite like it before. I always enjoy reading something a bit different! I also liked the way the author writes, I found it difficult to put down despite it not being full of action or drama. There were some parts in which I felt the story was meandering slightly but I was always hooked back in by the author’s writing. There was a real feeling of unease and paranoia, like something terrible was about to take place throughout the whole novel which did not subside even with the conclusion. I like that sort of uneasy slow burn in a mystery, however it may not be for everyone.
Overall, I liked this book very much. I do wish certain things had been more thoroughly explained but I really loved the atmosphere of the novel and I thought the characters of Jen and Lana and their relationship was dealt with beautifully by the author. I will definitely read more from Emma Healey who seems to have a real skill for capturing the intensity of mental illness and showing how it really can and does affect everyone. This is not a book packed full of twists and action, however it is an unusual and thought provoking mystery with a sinister feeling of not quite knowing what is real and what is not.
I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review. All opinions are my own.