When five-year-old Sean comes home from school with suspicious bruises on his thigh it’s not long before his teacher is under suspicion. That suspicion soon turns sensational when rumours of a satanic cult infiltrating the town start to take root and Sean finds himself wrapped up in a media frenzy of twisted truths.
Thirty years later in another town, Richard, the local kindergarten teacher starts to notice some odd goings-on around him. Disemboweled rabbits and hastily scrawled pentagrams bear an eerie resemblance to the scandalous stories of Eighties devil worship that have haunted teachers since. But that was all a scam… wasn’t it?
The very first thing you read in Whisper Down The Lane is a quote from Rosemary’s Baby and that sets the tone of this novel perfectly. The idea that Satanists are real and that they’re in your town, in your schools and they’re after your children is an insidious and unsettling start to Clay McLeod Chapman’s mystery-horror.
Told across two timelines, Chapman splits the narrative between Sean in 1982 and Richard in 2013, creating two stories that methodically and deliberately spiral into and around one another. The balanced pacing gently leads you down the lane to a foregone conclusion, concealed in a thin veil of a binary reality.
By alternating the sub-title of each chapter ‘damned if you do’/’damned if you don’t’ and with a suggestive title like ‘Whisper Down The Lane’, the themes of lies, deception and half-truths are not subtle but there’s definitely something grimly gratifying about knowing what you’re in for. Lean and enticing, Chapman’s uncomplicated and efficient storytelling can be devoured with devilish delight.
Contrasting the Eighties paranoia for the corruption of children and the fear of suspicious white-panel vans, with the modern-day conspiracy theories of QAnon’s paedophilic satanic cabals, garnishes the story with an uncomfortable realism and an even more troublesome thought of history repeating itself.
Whisper Down The Lane delivers a dose of nasty nostalgia, perfectly capturing the Eighties hysteria of seeing Satan around every corner, suspecting that the devil had invaded our music, our TV and even our schools. While its superficially supernatural setup may leave ardent horror fans feeling a little short-changed, those looking for a dark and dirty thriller-horror will find themselves satisfyingly seduced by the intensity of the premise.