Once again, we’ve been keeping a careful and loving eye on the most exciting debuts going to print, and this month we have picked a classically inspired and deeply chilling ghost story to be our Debut of The Month. The Whistling by Rebecca Netley wraps an intriguing mystery in layers of palpable atmosphere and emotional strain to deliver a ghostly tale that works as both twisting thriller and sophisticated horror.
The Whistling by Rebecca Netly
The Scottish island of Skelthsea is a remote and rugged place. You’d never end up there by accident. Elspeth Swansome finds herself there seeking a new start, an escape of sorts. Having suffered great personal loss, she’s taken a job as a nanny at a house called Iskar – a joyless building brimming with melancholy. The child for whom she is to care, Mary, is an odd child. In fact, she’s not said a word since her twin brother died. Nobody on the island will speak of it. And that’s not all that everyone’s keeping quiet about. The haunting lullabies that echo through Iskar’s naked corridors go unmentioned. The dolls that turn up unbidden in empty rooms are not commented upon. And only Elspeth will acknowledge the eerie whistling that comes to the house every night.
With winter deepening, passage to the mainland will soon become impossible and Elspeth will have to wait it out on the island accompanied only by her many questions: what happened to Mary’s twin? What happened to Mary’s mother? And is the tragic house haunted by the spirits of the past, or by the unanswered secrets in the present?
The Whistling is incredibly atmospheric. It thrums with melancholy and expertly conjures a lonesome island beaten by the seas and smothered by secrecy. Netley is careful with her divulgences and masterful in her evocations, and this is a tale that will leave you thoroughly rattled in all the right ways. Perfect for anyone with a classic haunting itch to scratch.