Monday 31 October 2011

The Whisper Jar - Carole Lanham

Spooky Halloween everyone!

Tonight is not just the time for witches and monsters to come out of their hiding holes and haunt us. It’s also the day The Whisper Jar is released. It’s no coincidence, as the whisper jar is the keeper of horrible, unmentionable secrets that should never be told. And yet, here they are, for everyone to read, all wrapped up in one deliciously creepy collection, beautifully crafted by author Carole Lanham. Read if you dare.

And you should dare, because they’re all great.

If you’re looking to extend the Halloween feel to the cold and windy nights of November, you should look no further and give this book a try. It’s the perfect choice. Here you’ll read tales of vampires, zombies, torture chambers, werewolves and mad creatures in the attic. They are tales of bitter jealousies and unhealthy desires, of sexual awakenings and dangerous games. Some of them deal with the supernatural, some others are simply human, but not less freaky because of that.

You’ll learn about the wonderful power of the jilly jally butter mints, and the terrible fate that has fallen upon those who dared to mess with them unsupervised. You’ll get acquainted with a flower fairy and how she came to be the bearer of a secret too painful for her to handle. There are all sorts, but ultimately they all share something: the power to make you want to read more, even if you know it’s not going to be pretty.

My personal favourite is the one called "The Blue Word". It’s a different setting than most of the other stories’ in the collection, which seem to have an early 1900s feel. "The Blue Word" is one of the exceptions. It’s set in a post-apocalyptic/dystopian world, during an unspecified future, where a virus has transformed half the population in flesh-eating zombies. The story is confined within the walls of the Salvation House, a school run by nuns, who are keeping their students from the dangers of the outside world. But of course nothing is what it seems in Carole Lanham’s world, and when the secret is revealed, it’s both chilling and heartbreaking. It would have been a fantastic idea for a novel, but I also see the appeal of keeping it short, it certainly heightens the final revelation’s effect.

I honestly can’t think of a better book to read this Halloween. OK, I haven’t read any other horror fiction books this time, but it doesn’t matter, ‘cause this was more than enough. It’s eerie, surprising, beautifully written, with dark humour and a strange, playful, inventive language. It was also very sensual, which is unusual seeing that it involves children and teenagers. So, yeah, it is about children, but it isn’t for children. I wouldn’t give it to them anyway, but I can imagine curious kids stealing it from their parents’ nightstand and reading it sneakily under their beds…and then scare the crap out of them for days to come.

One more thing. It seems like most of the stories have an underlining Christian theme. Nuns and priests are abounding, but definitely not in a comforting way. This brings me back to a line from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which is useful for the Whisper Jar too. “Note to self. Religion: creepy”.

This review is part of a blog tour.

To read what everyone else is saying about The Whisper Jar follow these links:

Kinder Trauma - Oct 28

The Deepening World of Books - Oct 29

Author Cate Gardner - Oct 30
Words words Words - Nov 2

Storytellers Unplugged Nov 2

Littlebird Blue -Twitter Interview with Author Camille Alexa - Nov 3

To know more about the author visit her websites at the horror maker and carolelanham