Originally published: Oct 2021 (Paperback edition 13 Oct 2022)
Author: Rebecca Netley
Published by: Michael Joseph
Genre: Ghost Horror
Length: 384 pages
Reading dates: 24-29 October 2022
When Elspeth arrives on a remote Scottish island to become nanny to a young child, she hopes to bond with her. Until she learns that, for reasons no one will explain, Mary has not spoken for months.
And the girl’s silence is not the only mystery.
Hypnotic lullabies drift down empty corridors.
Strange dolls appear in abandoned rooms.
And as the nights draw in, darker questions arise . . .What happened to Mary’s late twin, William? Why did their previous nanny disappear so suddenly?
And is the whistling Elspeth hears at night just the storm outside?
Or is somebody coming for her . . .?
Elspeth is a young woman who takes up the position of nanny to young Mary in an isolated manor house on the on the remote Scottish island of Skelthsea. Mary who has refused to speak since the death of the twin brother a few months ago. Elspeth herself is grieving both the death of her father but also the tragic recent death of her younger sister Clara.
Mary’s last nanny Hettie, left suddenly just before William died and Mary is in the care of her aunt who looks after her schooling and Elspeth who looks after her the rest of the time. Elspeth is confident with a little love and attention Mary will speak again but it is not as easy as she thinks and although Mary and her form a bond, she can’t get her to talk.
The maid Greer seems to take an instant dislike to Elspeth and makes her feel uncomfortable by coming into her room at night to rearrange her shoes and singing lullabies outside her door after she has gone to bed. But before long there are other spooky occurrences that Elspeth cannot ignore – the sound of a toy truck being played with in an abandoned attic, some stones she finds in Mary’s possession wrapped in human hair, and Mary’s mutterings to herself and the terrifying nightmares she has.
Well, this was a great book to read for Halloween! A proper spooky ghost story that made my hair stand on end. The story is slow to start but I found that was a good way to build the tension and uneasiness which I felt throughout. Elspeth is a sympathetic character – still mourning the death of her sister, she is good hearted and wants to make Mary better, but she soon feels she can’t stay on Skelthsea. The island itself is both beautiful and desolate and although Elspeth has her allies who tell her more about the history of the family and what happened with Hettie and William, there are still others who Elspeth feels are against her and she dreams of returning to Edinburgh,
With an eerie atmosphere from the very first page, The Whistling is a chilling, supernatural ghost story which was perfect for the spooky season.
Thank you to Kallie and Michael Joseph for inviting me on the Halloween Readalong!
About the author:
Rebecca Netley grew up as part of an eccentric family in a house of books and music, and these things have fed her passions. Family and writing remain at the heart of Rebecca’s life. She lives in Reading with her husband, sons and an over-enthusiastic dog, who gives her writing tips. The Whistling is Rebecca Netley’s debut novel and won the Exeter Novel Prize. She is based in Reading.