Review: “Whisper Down the Lane” by Clay McLeod Chapman

Posted: April 24, 2021 in Novel, Review, Scary Stuff
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An article I read last year listed this novel as one of the most anticipated horror novels of 2021. Along with the cover and the two-sentence synopsis, I got intrigued and requested my library order copies. They ordered, I was among the first to get a copy from the library, and started reading as soon as possible. Today, I finished the novel, so obviously I’m letting you know what I think.

Based partially on the McMartin preschool trials and the Satanic Panic of the 1980s,* Whisper Down the Lane takes place in 1983 and 2013. In 1983, young Sean Crenshaw finds himself in the spotlight when he tells his mother that his kindergarten teacher has been abusing him and his classmates, as well as is part of a Satanic cult. As the local community and the country at large is swept up in terror, nobody realizes Sean is holding in a much more explosive secret.

Meanwhile, in 2013, Richard Bellamy is teaching art at a prestigious elementary school. However, strange incidents are occurring in the school and in town, and they all seem to link back to Sean’s past. What most don’t realize, however, is that Sean and Richard have a connection. And the events of one are influencing the other.

I had a lot of fun with this novel. Chapman does an excellent job of showing the mindsets of the young, naïve Sean, who views what’s going on as playing a game (Tell the Adults What They Want to Hear), and Richard, who initially narrates with plenty of sarcasm and levity but slowly starts incorporating darker, more serious language into his sections of the story. You not only start to believe in these characters, but really feel for them as they go through various troubles.

I also liked how Chapman taps into the birth and spread of paranoia while still telling a story. Again, it’s so believable reading how paranoia spreads among the characters in the 1980s and how they start to become convinced of Satanists abusing their children. Adding to this sense of believability are sections written as transcripts between Sean and Kinderman, a psychologist who is interviewing victims. Those sections really reflect how things likely happened during the Satanic Panic of the 1980s, and shows how much research Chapman did.

Richard’s own dark feelings, including paranoia, are also written very realistically. It was powerful and heartbreaking getting into his head and seeing how events were affecting his mental state.

The only problems I really had with the story were that certain plot elements were predictable, at least for me. That being said, there were plenty of surprises throughout the story, and I can forgive a little predictability (a lot is where i draw the line).

On a scale of 1 to 5, I award Whisper Down the Lane by Clay McLeod Chapman a 4.3. Written with strong characterization and emotion, you’ll believe you’re reading about actual people with actual fears. Grab a copy, put on your favorite 80s music, and settle in. Once you start, you’ll find it hard to put the book down.

*Which, by the way, kicked off way too early. I wasn’t born till the 1990s and the insidious network of devoted acolytes to my evil didn’t crop up till the mid-2010s.

Comments
  1. Excellent review. Sounds like Chapman’s pacing/buildup was spot-on.

  2. I am not into horror genre much. But this one seems interesting . Would totally add it to my tbr

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