The Whispering by Veronica Lando centres around a myth – ‘the whispering’ apparently luring children to their death off the boulders in Granite Creek’s rainforest in Far North Queensland.
I was slightly worried there’d be a supernatural theme to this book as it’s not a genre I enjoy, but – though there’s reference to ‘whispering’ – Queensland author Lando sets the events of this book (past and present) firmly in this earthly realm.The Whispering
by Veronica Lando
Published by HarperCollins - AU
Source: Harper Collins
Genres: Thriller / Suspense
Callum Haffenden swore he'd never return to Granite Creek. But, thirty years after a life-shattering accident, he's thrust back into the clutches of Far North Queensland and a local legend he worked hard to forget.
When a man goes missing in the rainforest, the past begins to resurface, breathing new life into memories of previous tragedies - two girls lost, seventeen years apart. In a town where it's easiest to turn a blind eye, the guilt runs deep and everyone in Granite Creek has something to hide.
In his search for answers, Callum fights to keep his feet firmly on the trail as he battles the deafening call of the rainforest burrowing into his ears. After all, everyone knows that the worst things in the rainforest are those unseen.
Front and centre here is Granite Creek returnee Callum. Lando ekes out (though not laboriously) Callum’s backstory. When he arrives there’s reference to an accident years before. People comment on his leg. Callum talks about his limp and how much standing pains him. And then we learn that thirty years earlier he fell from the boulders where Lachlan Wyatt has now gone missing.
Callum’s family left town soon after his accident. I’d assumed he left under a cloud but we learn otherwise. There was nothing suspicious about his departure, just sadness. It coincided however with the disappearance of a teenage girl Amelia. The namesake (and would-have-been-aunt) of a toddler who disappeared from the same area almost two decades later.
It’s hard to talk much about the plot of this without giving too much away. Although I really liked Callum (though his doggedness, despite the pain he was inflicting on himself frustrated me), the strength of this novel is in the twisty plot reveals. Initially it seems pretty straight forward but somehow Lando manages to bury secrets within the most simple things. Things we assume. Things we believe.
She also deftly reminds us of Australia’s violent history with the massacre of Australia’s Indigenous people, its owners, when the country was invaded in the late 1700s and early 1800s. The ‘whispering’ is said to be the children who lost their lives, calling or singing for playmates to join them… luring them off the boulders into the afterlife.
Lando spends a lot of time painting the imagery of this book’s setting. She lives in North Queensland so obviously has an affinity and connectedness to the place as her writing and the language is thick with evocative and descriptive prose. And our narrator Callum drops fauna and flora names like a B-lister celebrity wannabe. I assumed he would be a botanist or biologist or similar but he is in fact a journalist (a whole different ‘ist’) but most definitely in Granite Creek for personal rather than professional reasons.
Callum reminded me to Chris Hammer’s Martin Scarsden, whether that’s the journalism link I’m not sure. I did initially assume we’d meet Callum again and this would be the first in a series, however (for reasons I can’t divulge), in many ways his story is ‘done’ in The Whispering, so I think I’d prefer to leave him here. I’d definitely like to hear more from Lando though and like the FNQ setting, so perhaps something featuring First Nations’ cop (and Callum’s childhood bestie) Eddy would be an option.
The Whispering by Veronica Lando was published in Australia by Harper Collins and is now available.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.