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Whisper Down the Lane by Clay McLeod Chapman | Book Review

I received this book for free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Whisper Down the Lane by Clay McLeod Chapman
Published by Quirk Books on April 6 2021
Genres: Horror, Crime
Pages: 304
Format: ARC, Paperback
Source: Publisher
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four stars - Whisper Down the Lane by Clay McLeod Chapman | Book Review

Inspired by the McMartin preschool trials and the Satanic Panic of the ‘80s, the critically acclaimed author of The Remaking delivers another pulse pounding, true-crime-based horror novel.

Richard doesn’t have a past. For him, there is only the present: a new marriage to Tamara, a first chance at fatherhood to her son Elijah, and a quiet but pleasant life as an art teacher at Elijah’s elementary school in Danvers, Virginia. Then the body of a rabbit, ritualistically murdered, appears on the school grounds with a birthday card for Richard tucked beneath it. Richard doesn’t have a birthday—but Sean does . . .

Sean is a five-year-old boy who has just moved to Greenfield, Virginia, with his mother. Like most mothers of the 1980s, she’s worried about bills, childcare, putting food on the table . . . and an encroaching threat to American life that can take the face of anyone: a politician, a friendly neighbor, or even a teacher. When Sean’s school sends a letter to the parents revealing that Sean’s favorite teacher is under investigation, a white lie from Sean lights a fire that engulfs the entire nation—and Sean and his mother are left holding the match.

Now, thirty years later, someone is here to remind Richard that they remember what Sean did. And though Sean doesn’t exist anymore, someone needs to pay the price for his lies.

Whisper Down the Lane is a dark and oftentimes rage inducing tale of identity, guilt and pain.  Richard, an art teacher in Virginia comes across a gutted school rabbit that appears to have ritualistic connotations.  It shouts out at him and can’t help but ponder if it was carried out in his name.  This is a story often its not healthy for the readers continuation of life – but isn’t that the best kind of novel?  It’s edgy and frank and it doesn’t care for your feelings…it doesn’t care one bit.

Whisper Down the Lane is hard hitting – think of a mallet pounding into your temple.  With that visual in mind, it will give you a more realistic viewpoint of how this book made me feel.  Chapman’s intricate motivation into his research pays off, I felt more than once throwing the book across the room.  I ached for characters and I wanted to thoroughly shake more than one of them. 

We are given two alternating POV’s from 5-year-old Sean in 1983 and thirty something Richard in 2013.  Sean is a timid little boy who has never quite found his place amongst friends or at school.  He’s essentially a pleaser and wants everyone to be happy.  If that’s telling the adults what they want to hear, so be it.  He moves to Greenfield, Virginia with his mum.  His mum doesn’t have much, and it comes across as if she is constantly running from something.  She’s a vacant and emotionally distant parental figure and it from here I think that Sean perpetually wants to please everyone.  He’s never fully got the love from his mother and he craves it…he needs it.  All is going well in his new school, until of course, it isn’t. 

Whispers Down the Lane is impeccable at examining the intricacies of the pressures and strains and the deck of cards type impact of serious allegations.  One white lie is all it takes to set off a disastrous chain of events to all involved.  Careers and families destroyed for many years to come.  We meet Richard an art teacher who lives with his wife Tamara and her five year old son.  He wants to have a great relationship with him and talks to him about his adoptive past.  Today’s events start spiraling and he quickly loses control.  Guilt is a powerful emotion, and this was probably the best example of it that I have ever read. 

The story is so fucking complex, and my eyes ended up stinging from how intensely I was staring at the words.  Nothing was as black and white as it was being out to be.  A story so superbly imaginative but realistic in the same breath.  I loved the portrayal of satanism thrown into the mix because nothing winds people up more is the thought of children mixed up in satanic ritual.  It’s a horror story of how humanity can be turned and that’s the real horror – humans can be the real horror.   

Whisper Down the Lane is no trope rehash – its original and a genuine page turner.  Authentically chilling.


ABOUT CLAY McLEOD CHAPMAN

Headshot 200 200 - Whisper Down the Lane by Clay McLeod Chapman | Book Review

“Like a demonic angel on a skateboard, like a resurrected Artaud on methadrine, like a tattletale psychiatrist turned rodeo clown, Clay McLeod Chapman races back and forth along the serrated edges of everyday American madness, objectively recording each whimper of anguish, each whisper of skewed desire. This is strong stuff, intense stuff, sometimes disturbing stuff, but I think the many who admire Chuck Palahniuk will admire Chapman as well.”—Tom Robbins, author, Still Life with Woodpecker

Clay McLeod Chapman is the author of The Remaking, nothing untoward, miss corpus and rest area, as well as The Tribe middlegrade series: Homeroom Headhunters, Camp Cannibal and Academic Assassins.

Upcoming projects include Whisper Down the Lane, a new psychological horror novel from Quirk Books (April 2021), and ORIGINS, an original 6-issue limited miniseries from BOOM! Studios (November 2020).

Chapman’s story late bloomer was adapted into a short film, directed by Craig William Macneill. An official selection at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival, the short won Best Short at the Lake Placid Film Festival and the Brown Jenkins Award at the 12th Annual H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival. Their second short, Henley, based on the chapter “The Henley Road Motel” from Chapman’s novel miss corpus, was an official selection at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. It won Best Short at the 2011 Gen Art Film Festival and the 2011 Carmel Arts and Film Festival. The Boy (SXSW 2015), a feature-length adaptation of Henley, co-written with director Macneill, was produced by SpectreVision (Elijah Wood, Daniel Noah, and Josh C. Waller) in 2015.

In comics, Chapman is the writer of the ongoing Marvel series Scream: Curse of Carnage. He has written Absolute Carnage: Separation AnxietyIron Fist: Phantom Limb, Typhoid Fever, as well as for Edge of Spider-Verse and Venomverse, The Avengers, Amazing Spider-Man, Ultimate Spider-Man, American Vampire, and Scream: King In Black, among others.

He is the creator of Self Storage (451 Media) and Lazaretto (BOOM! Studios).

Chapman is the creator of the rigorous storytelling session The Pumpkin Pie Show. In the twenty years of its existence, it has performed internationally at the Romanian Theatre Festival of Sibiu, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, New York International Fringe Festival, Winnipeg Fringe Festival, Edmonton Fringe Festival, Minnesota Fringe Festival, Dublin-based thisisnotashop art space, IGNITE Festival, Women Center Stage Festival and Impact Theatre Festival.

Chapman wrote the book for Hostage Song (music & lyrics by Kyle Jarrow). He is the author of such plays as commencement, the cardiac shadow and volume of smoke. His story-monologues birdfeeder, undertow and the wet echo have been featured in The Best American Short Plays anthologies.

Chapman was educated at the North Carolina School of the Arts for Drama, the Burren College of Art, and Sarah Lawrence College. He currently teaches writing at The Actors Studio MFA Program at Pace University.

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four stars - Whisper Down the Lane by Clay McLeod Chapman | Book Review

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