cover image The Whispering House

The Whispering House

Elizabeth Brooks. Tin House, $16.95 trade paper (392p) ISBN 978-1-951142-36-0

Brooks (The Orphan of Salt Winds) cooks up a spellbinding gothic story featuring a sinister country house. Aspiring poet Freya Lyell, 23, mourns the apparent death by suicide of her mercurial older sister, Stella, at 21, who jumped from a cliff not far from stately Byrne Hall in England’s West Country. Five years on, Freya and her father attend a cousin’s wedding on the grounds of the imposing house. After a few drinks and the glimpse of a mysterious man emerging from the cliff path, Freya wanders into the house’s front hall to discover a portrait of a girl who appears to be Stella. When she returns to inquire about the picture, she is lured into a web of dark intrigue spun by the house’s inhabitants: artist Cory Byrne, who remembers having Stella pose for him a week before her death, and Cory’s enigmatic mother, Diana. While there is never any doubt who the bad guys and good guys are, the yarn moves swiftly and with sufficient suspense to its predictable denouement, Brooks’s lean prose never getting in the way of the plot. This is an exquisitely creepy page-turner. Agent, Sarah Levitt, Aevitas Creative. (Mar.)