By Elle Turpitt
Rose McFarland is, to put it bluntly, a badass. As a S.W.A.T. sniper, she knows how to use weapons and, most importantly, when to use them. But after her latest job, things start to go wrong, putting not just her at risk, not just her family, but also the whole world. She must confront her past, while dealing with her present to make sure they get out alive…no matter what.
Whispers in the Dark is Laurel Hightower’s first novel, which honestly, I was really surprised at. Because holy shit, this is good.
Right from the start, the tension in the novel is high, as Rose waits for the opportunity to take a shot at Charlie Akers, at a standoff that will change everything. Rose is everything we’ve come to love about these strong female characters, but there’s so much more to her than that. She’s not a loner; she has a family, and men she loves that love her too; as well as a cast of characters she cares deeply about, that we soon do too.
It’s hard to convey just how good this book is. There were moments I had to put my Kindle down and just…take a step back, absorbing the character development and the horror tied in so tightly throughout. The moments meant to scare really do creep in under your skin, and the moments where we get to see Rose living a happy family life make the horror all the more poignant.
One thing I really liked about it were the men in Rose’s life. The way they’re handled feels realistic and her family is a nice, refreshing portrayal of blended families. And the men really do look out for her, though at the end of the day, they all understand she’s stronger than any of them, and in the best position to protect herself and her family.
There’s no alpha male bull here, no damsel in distress or guys who feel the need to make her into one. They understand her, and aren’t constantly trying to swoop in and save her.
In the background to all this are the Whispers. The strange force that in Rose’s childhood signaled the coming of ghosts. The Whispers and the threat they present is built up throughout, as Rose tries to work out exactly what is happening, and how it ties into her and her family.
The writing is strong, the events unnerving, the characters deep, flawed, and oh so relatable.
This is horror of the highest order, with a strong, formidable main character, not a final girl, but a female horror protagonist for the 21st century. The kind of Gifted Girl many of us seem to have waited a long time for. Rose and the Whispers will get into your head and won’t let go, and I can’t think of anything more you’d want from a horror novel.