The Orphan Choir
Sophie Hannah has established quite a reputation over the past several years as Britain's new queen of the psychological thriller. Blurbs by fellow authors like Tana French have endorsed this claim. Now, with the release of her first supernatural thriller, THE ORPHAN CHOIR, she is ready to take the United States by storm.
Louise Beeston is haunted by music that only she can hear, sung by a choir only she can see. How this situation came about involves a slow-burning account so suspenseful and eerie that readers will feel that the story stepped right out of “The Twilight Zone.”
Louise and her husband, Stuart, live in a modest neighborhood in the London suburbs. Their street is made up of mostly respectful neighbors who keep to themselves. Privately grieving over the fact that her only child, Joseph, is living away at a prep school causes Louise to have too much alone time, which leads to her mind wandering into dangerous areas.
"THE ORPHAN CHOIR is never predictable and makes for some chilling late-night reading."
She focuses her anguish on her neighbor --- a wild young man she has nicknamed Mr. Fahrenheit --- an allusion to the Queen song “Don't Stop Me Now” whereby Freddie Mercury refers to himself by that name. Mr. Fahrenheit enjoys the occasional house party and tends to turn his music up way too loud for Louise's liking. He even does this beyond the respectful time of 11pm, which has caused a feud between the two.
Louise has reported her neighbor to the Cambridge City Council's environmental health office, and they send a representative by the name of Pat Jervis to take a statement. Following the first meeting, Louise's nemesis not only continues to play his music at high volume but now has begun to add choral music sung by a boys' choir at all hours of the night. The irony of this malicious act is not lost on Louise as her son, Joseph, is part of the choir at his boarding school.
The only problem with Louise's new claims of the late night choir music is the fact that no one else has heard it. Her husband just humors her, while other neighbors confirm they have heard no music in the middle of the night. Louise is slowly driven to the brink of insanity and seeks out a private, gated community that seems ideal and has strict by-laws involving neighborhood behavior and noise level. Louise talks her husband into purchasing a second home in the idealistic Swallowfield development, but she quickly realizes that the music that haunts her has come along for the ride.
THE ORPHAN CHOIR is never predictable and makes for some chilling late-night reading. I don't think Sophie Hannah will remain under the radar much longer as she has just been tabbed by the Agatha Christie Estate to pen a “new” Agatha Christie novel. I cannot wait to read that one --- a well-deserved choice in Sophie Hannah!
Reviewed by Ray Palen on January 31, 2014