by Laurel Hightower
The high amount of impressive debut novels is a trend I’ve noticed amongst the indie horror community. Laurel Hightower’s Whispers In The Dark is no exception. It’s a ghost story with elements of romance, and the protagonist Rose McFarland is a kick-ass female SWAT sniper. Can’t say I’ve read anything close to that. Never mind a hybrid of the two.
Whispers starts off in the middle of a hostage negotiation. What unfolds there is the catalyst for so many crazy events in this book that you can’t help but wonder “what if Rose didn’t…” Right, we’re not going to get into the end of that sentence. I don’t offer spoilers.
Rose has two children from two different marriages, one from a departed husband, and an ex-husband, Sam, who raises the two kids along with Rose. I love that, because it isn’t your “perfect” family scenario. Even though her and Sam get along well enough, throughout the book you realize what obstacles they face, why they got divorced, and if there is enough to rekindle their romantic relationship.
The story progresses in such a horrible downward spiral, and it’s a long and slow one at that. When I say slow it’s not a comment on bad pacing or filler scene. Quite the opposite. It’s slow in the sense that she deals with SO MUCH shit and things build up over what feels like a long course of time until we reach the final showdown.
Here’s why I think it’s worth your time. And here’s why I give this book the highest rating: parts of this book creeped me out to the point that while I was reading it I had to stop, put it down, and look over my shoulder a few times to make sure the paranormal activity described in the book wasn’t materializing in my reality. By ghost standards story, it feels so incredible unique due to the very nature of the content and the structure of the story itself. The ghosts are the driving force of this story, but they certainly are nose-to-nose with the interwoven love stories – some platonic, some of parent and child, and other of lovers. And lastly, during the epilogue, I legitimately got choked up and cried (tears of happiness…a few times). I wish I could tell you why, but even the slightest hint would ruin the moment I lost my vision to tears.
How is this Hightower’s first novel? The best part about this story is I truly believe you don’t have to be into horror to love it. I’m no expert but this comes off as a book that could be classified as commercially-sellable. It’s clearly also a story that’s very loved by Hightower’s peers.
I assure you that Whispers is not only worth your time, but you should also follow the author on twitter. I say that because I got to know her very well before I read this. I wanted to read this not so much for the high praise by other authors and people in the community that I respect, but due to how amazing she is as a friend and mother. Which brings me to my last point. This book could only have been written by the loving hand of a strong, kickass mother. I feel her love for her own children in this one, and I know Laurel would do for her children, what Rose did for hers. And the ending…it was everything I hoped it would be. For that, I thank you Laurel.
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Review by Patrick R. McDonough
I received an e-copy of this from the author, Laurel Hightower, for review consideration.