Monday, 12 May 2014

The Whispering

The Whispering by Sarah Rayne
Published by Severn House
30th January 2014
Hardback Edition



Fosse House, home of the reclusive Luisa Gilmore, harbours curious secrets - secrets that stretch back almost a century, to the ill-fated Palestrina Choir in its remote Belgian convent.

When Oxford don Michael Flint travels to the house to trace the origins of the long-dead Choir, he is at once aware of the house's eerie menace. Who is the shadowy young man who lurks in the grounds, and why does his exact likeness appear in a sketch from 1917? What is the strange whispering that echoes through the corridors? And why is Luisa so afraid when a storm makes it necessary for Michael to spend the night inside the house?

Back in Oxford, when Nell West uncovers the story of the infamous 1917 'Holzminden sketch' - the lost, legendary drawing from World War I - a dark fragment of the past begins to stir. A fragment that Michael, in the lonely old house, may not be able to resist.


Memo from: Director of Music, Oriel College, Oxford

To: Dr Michael Flint, English Literature/Language Faculty

                                                              October 201-

     A note to wish you well on your journey into the deepest Fens.  Fosse House is apparently in rather a remote spot, but I'm sure you'll be all right, once you actually get there.  It's a pity Luisa Gilmore didn't feel able to put you up at the house for a couple of nights, but I expect you'll fare well and forage sufficiently at the local pub.  I've never met Miss Gilmore, but she's always been very helpful in our exchange of letters. She's a bit of a recluse, I suspect, and possibly a touch eccentric, but at seventy-odd years of age anyone is allowed a bit of eccentricity, I should hope.  She's never married, and she's lived in the house all her life.  But what's more to the point is that one of her ancestors was part of the ill-fated Palestrina Choir - actually inside the Liège convent when it was destroyed - so there could be a wealth of primary source material in the house.
     The OUP are keen on our idea for a book focusing on the musical influences on the work of the Great War poets.  They're also what they term 'pleasantly surprised' at the level of sales for our joint book on the influence of music on the Romantic Poets last year, and they even mentioned receiving an email from a TV company about making a documentary based on it.  I dare say it won't come to anything, and I expect it's all a flea bite compared to your Wilberforce books (incidentally my small niece is an avid reader of them), but I do feel we've made a modest contribution to the field, and this new oeuvre should add to that.
     I'm looking forward to the results of your sojourn at Fosse House, but do try to stay clear of any peculiar happenings while you're there.  You seem to attract such odd occurrences.  We heard snippets of rather intriguing gossip about your exploits in Derbyshire last year, and if Owen Bracegirdle in the History Faculty can be believed, there were some extraordinary shenanigans in Ireland a couple of years before that.  (Dr Bracegirdle is given to exaggeration, however, not to say outright flippancy).

     Kind regards,


Sarah Rayne knows how to write a ghost story.  She has just the right pace and twists and turns to put goose-bumps on your arms and keep you turning the pages well into the night whilst keeping an eye on things moving in the shadows around you.

Dr Michael Flint is invited to Fosse House, home of the recluse Luisa Gilmore to study papers relating to the horrific demise of the Palestrina Choir.  While he is there, he hears ghostly whispers, figures in the garden, and sees something strange in some of the pictures on the wall.  Unfortunately for him, a storm breaks out and causes a huge tree to fall blocking entry to and from the house - instead of staying at the local pub, Michael Flint is forced to reside at Fosse House; only there is definitely something or someone else trying to get in.

Sarah Rayne weaves a tale of the First World War, of the prisoner of war camp at Holzminden, and of the haunting yet never-seen choir of Palestrina in a Belgium convent.  As Michael Flint, and his partner Nell West continue to delve into the past, Luisa Gilmore is forced to reveal the truth about life at Fosse House, before it is too late.

A perfect ghost-story, and if you haven't read any of her novels before (and there are over 20 of them) I thoroughly recommend checking this, and them, out.


Happy Reading


Miss Chapter x

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