Book Review: "The House of a Hundred Whispers" by Graham Masterton
5/5 - A chilling twisted tale of a lonely house...
You have probably heard of the haunted house stories - we have got everything from the book that scared yours truly as a child, "The Turn of the Screw" by Henry James all the way to the subversively chilling "The Haunting of Hill House" by Shirley Jackson. We have all read the stories of children being gone in the night with a kidnapper somewhere far away. But then you take the crux of these two stories and you combine them to get Graham Masterton's "The House of a Hundred Whispers". A chilling and eerie masterpiece filled with descriptions of old, creaking staircases that throw you back into classic horror until you realise that the child that has gone missing never left the house. He went missing inside the house.
Mr. Russell has just died and the house has been left to the care of his children. All grown up, they bring along their families. Rob brings his wife Vicky and child, Timmy and his brother Martin brings along his partner with the sister bringing along her girlfriend, Portia. Timmy is the only child and yet, when he goes missing - every single person puts aside everything they did not like about one another and searches for him. This leads them to other places. Amongst the house comes whispers, suitcases belonging to convicts are found in the attic and doors can be heard opening and closing. The atmosphere is super tense and the house is not as lonely as you might think.
This classic tale of the haunted house is mixed with the very modern fear of the unknown. It's not just a missing child they are looking for - they are questioning everything. There's even a murder involved and the heritage of some of the members seems to be scrutinised under the microscope. The kind of fear that this puts into the bones is something both terrifying and uncomfortable at the same time. All whilst trying to find a lost child - and others. Others that are lost.
This book has been one of my favourite horror reads of the last few months and honestly, I didn't expect to enjoy it as much as I did. It was filled with atmosphere and foreboding. It always felt like there was something more to the story than what we thought we were being given. My suggestion to you future readers would be to pay very close attention to the way the two brothers talk to each other. There is something very peculiar about it and you only realise that it is there at the very end of the book. It will shock and surprise you and then you will realise why it was there in the first place.
The incredible amount of control the author has is brilliant, it makes for an excellent plot. But the thing I loved most about the story is the way it links us back to the haunted houses of old. It is both a classic and a modernist tale of fear, fitting right in with both traditions.
I would liken this book to the stories of Edgar Allen Poe and possibly to the stories of Shirley Jackson because of the way that all the haunting is coming from inside such a confined space. I love the way the atmosphere hints at the haunting at first and then, we get these build ups of tension due to individual experiences of the characters. For example: when the child thinks there is someone else in the house and Rob and Martin go to check it out but nobody is there, or when Vicky can hear whispering coming from one of the rooms and someone crying but again, nobody is physically there. It is simply brilliant writing and plot planning. I appreciate the amount of work that has gone into making this novel a modern classic of the haunted house tradition.