Cover Image: Whisper Cottage

Whisper Cottage

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Avoncote  -  2012

Stina and Jack have moved to Avoncote, a perfect English town.  They have purchased a little cottage with a thatched roof like many of the other cottages around.  Unfortunately, it had been rented for some years so the garden and inside of the cottage need some work.  Stina has just discovered that she is pregnant and she and Jack are thrilled.   Jack is a veterinarian and Stina writes articles for magazines.

Next door to them is Rose Cottage inhabited by the elderly widow, Mrs. Barley.  Her home and garden are just beautiful and well cared for.  Even though Stina and Jack are warned about the woman, they find her very kind.  She brings them cakes and is quite helpful.  Others say she is mean and they think she may be a witch.

Stina is having some difficulties with her pregnancy and Jack thinks that some of the noises she says she hears and the stranger who appears in Mrs. Barley’s garden is just her imagination.  But is it?

This book is chock full of surprises that the reader is not expecting.  I am amazed that this is a debut novel for the author as it is so well written.  It’s spooky and the perfect read for when you want a really good mystery.  It’s difficult to express all of the things that readers will encounter in the book, but suffice to say that it will certainly leave you satisfied.  

Copy provided by NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.
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I really enjoyed this book. I thought it was very atmospheric and I did wander if there was something very odd going on next door in Mrs barleys House but after getting to the end I felt very sorry for her and how her life panned out and that she didn't quite get a happy ending but at least she found some friends in stina and Jack who tried to take care of her.
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The opening chapter of this story takes the reader back to 1964 and a domestic scene, relatable yet with sinister implications. Time moves forward to 2012 when Stina and her partner move into Whisper Cottage. Stina's unplanned pregnancy, the catalyst for the country move. Immediately there are echoes with the book's beginning, and you wonder if they too will feel the pressures of raising a young child.

This is an atmospheric story with hints of supernatural events and the possibility of mental health issues for the young expectant mother. Stina is an unreliable protagonist. The reader is never sure if she sees what she thinks she does. The villagers' archaic reaction to Stina's neighbour is complex,  disturbing and believable.

The intricate world-building slows the pace but is integral to the story's authenticity. The plot twists are impactful. This is an intriguing gothic style mystery with hints of domestic noir and psychological suspense.

I received a copy of this book from Avon Books UK via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
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“How well do you know the woman next door?”

The somewhat run down, but filled with potential, little house in the rural setting of Avoncote is just what Stina and Jack dreamed of for a new start. Added to the seemingly idyllic spot is the wonderfully welcoming neighbour Mrs Barley. But is this change a dream come true for Stina and Jack, or is it the beginning of a nightmare?

Whisper Cottage opens with a chilling prologue that sets up the tone for the rest of the book. It is a gripping tale that captured my attention right off the bat and although it does move at a slightly slower pace, I was still invested and wanted to see how it would all unfold.

Anne Wyn Clark does a great job of setting up a creepy and dark atmosphere throughout and as the tale progresses, so does the tension and suspense. I enjoyed its characters and undertones of the supernatural, as well as its twists and turns in the lead up to its finale.

As a debut, I think Anne Wyn Clark has done a great job with this book. She has crafted a very enjoyable and entertaining read and I look forward to reading more from her.

Thank you to Anne Wyn Clark, Avon Books and NetGalley for allowing me to read an advanced copy of Whisper Cottage, which I have reviewed honestly and voluntarily.
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I don't agree with the classification of this novel as psychological suspense. Rather it is a haunting somewhat dark and creepy mystery. Jack and Stina, newly married and expecting their first child, move to the quaint English village of Avoncote to be near Jack's veterinary practice. It seems like an ideal place to raise a child. They move into a semi-detached fixer-upper  cottage. Their neighbor Mrs Barley is very friendly and seems to be the ideal neighbor. Why do the other villagers not like her? Who is the strange man Stina sees lurking in her yard but whom Mrs Barley denies any knowledge of? Is Stina losing her mind? The author does an excellent describing the village with just enough creepy undertones to ratchet up the suspense. There are hints of witchcraft and things that go bump in the night. The story builds a little slowly at first to a conclusion with a stunning secret that shocks the entire village. Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for allowing me to read this enjoyable book in exchange for a review.
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When Stina and Jack move in next door to Mrs Barley, at first they think that she is a nice old lady. Mrs Barley is a bit of a strange one with her pagan beliefs and other idiosyncrasies, but they think she is harmless enough and become quite friendly with her. However they are in the minority in the village, with everyone else viewing her with suspicion and believing there is something "not quite right" about her - and when strange things start happening, Stina starts wondering if perhaps there might be something in it after all.

I enjoyed this story - although I did have to wonder at some of Stina's actions (namely if she had her doubts about Mrs Barley, why did she allow her to look after her baby?) It was eerie and mysterious without being overly sensational.

With thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for a copy of this book in return for an honest review.
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This was a creepy read as it built up the tension. Who or what was Mrs Barley - a kindly old neighbour or the local witch the villagers painted her to be? What was the prologue about? Some of the revelations I had guessed, others were a surprise, but nothing was a gasp out loud kind of shock. It did raise the question of how well we really know someone, and what secrets can be hiding between husband and wife and neighbours and friends. #netgalley #whispercottage
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Description 🔖

Stina and Jack have had enough of city life and move to a rural cottage in Avoncote in search of a more peaceful and serene life. The cottage needs some work, especially when compared to their widowed neighbour’s. But Mrs Barley doesn’t judge them and in fact is very welcoming and friendly.

Stina starts to become unnerved when she repeatedly sees a strange man in Mrs Barley’s garden, but nobody else seems to be around whenever she spots him. When she starts to hear weird noises during the night from the cottage next door she starts to question if Mrs Barley is as friendly as she seems. All of the other villagers appear to dislike her and when all of this is put together, Stina worries whether or not Mrs Barley can or cannot be trusted.

General Thoughts 🤔

Throughout this book I had no idea where the story was going to go. I knew that it was a thriller but there were times when I started to think that I was mistaken and it was actually a horror. I completely understand why Stina got so spooked by the cottage next door because I would have been the same. Living in an old property is lovely but what you don’t know is all of the secrets that are held within the walls. I liked that Stina brought her own secrets with her to add into the mix.

Characters 👭👬👫

If Mrs Barley was my neighbour, I’d have a problem on my hands. She was so creepy and strange I don’t think I could have been as polite as Stina and Jack were. On top of that, she was downright rude a lot of the time and that’s not something I think I’d have been able to bite my tongue about. Having finished the book I can see why Mrs Barley was the way she was; sometimes people’s secrets get the better of them and alter their entire life.

I have mixed opinions about Stina. There were times when I felt a huge amount of empathy for her as I think she was made to feel like she was losing her mind a little bit. Not necessarily anyone’s fault. There were other times I wanted to shake her and tell her to wise up a bit. All of the people who had lived near to Mrs Barley for a lot longer than her gave her lots of warning signs, but she chose to ignore them.

Writing Style ✍️

I liked that this book had a linear timeline and was told from just Stina’s perspective. Don’t get me wrong I love the direct opposite of that but it was nice to read a book and just follow along with the story simply.

I would have liked to have gone a bit deeper into the characters. Although we learnt some of the history, I would have liked to have known more. Especially Mrs Barley as a lot of her history came out right at the end. I appreciate it was part of the story unravelling, but I felt like I would have liked to have known a bit more about her background.

Conclusion & Scoring 🎖️

I enjoyed reading this book and got through it really quickly as once I got into it, everything flowed really easily and it was a gripping story to follow. I half wish I’d left this book for the weekend as it would have been a good Sunday afternoon read to get through in one sitting. Overall I thought this was a pleasant read, with just enough tension to keep me interested.
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Young couple Stina and Nick head for a slice of rural peace and quiet when they swap the busy city of Birmingham for the Warwickshire countryside. Although their new cottage needs more than a bit of work, Stina hopes this will become a happy family home for them and the baby she is carrying, giving her the chance to put her own disturbed childhood well and truly behind her.

While Nick is out at work at the rural veterinary practice that has drawn them to this neck of the woods, journalist Stina passes the time with some freelance work for a local magazine, making friends in the village, preparing for the birth of their baby, and getting to know their next door neighbour elderly Mrs Barley - whose house and garden are practically picture perfect. 

Although Mrs Barley seems a little odd at times, Stina finds it difficult to reconcile the picture of this little old lady with the one she starts to hear from the other villagers. No one seems to have a good word to say about her, which seems strange given the kindness she has shown to her and Nick. What lies behind these whispers about a woman who seems perfectly harmless, if eccentric? But when Stina starts to see a strange man hanging around Mrs Barley's garden - one it seems no one else has seen - and she hears strange noises and chanting coming from next door, she begins to wonder exactly what this old lady is hiding, and whether there might be any truth in the belief of the villagers that her intentions are evil. Have they made a mistake letting this woman into their lives?

Whisper Cottage is a great mix of domestic noir and mystery tale, with some lovely spooky undertones that draw heavily on themes of witchcraft and otherness. Anne Wyn Clark plays up the notion of outsiders in a close rural community beautifully throughout the story, examining how behaviour viewed as out of the ordinary can be woven into village gossip as tales ripe with suspicion and rumours of the supernatural.

This is a book that finds you second guessing yourself almost as much as Stina does, as she tries to come to terms with the whispers she nears about Mrs Barley and the woman she gets to know. As the strange happenings play out in the present, intertwined with the details of Stina's youth, the history of her relationship with Nick, the clues she puts together about Mrs Barley's past, and the worries Stina has about her own mental stability, the story becomes completely engrossing - and it takes you places you do not see coming, with a few poignant, and sometimes chilling, surprises to finish off everything nicely.

I read this book in a single entertaining sitting and thoroughly enjoyed the way Wyn Clark wove themes of folklore, paganism, forbidden love, trust, loneliness, mental health and motherhood into a slow burn tale that keeps you on your toes! Highly recommended in the run up to spooky season!
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So first thing that hooked me and drew me into this book was the first line of the blurb...How well do you know the woman next door? ... well that had me sold on the book and knew I had to read it!

In the book we meet Stina and Jack , they have moved into a old cottage in a little village .... now this is definitely the typical little British village you would imagine and conjure up in your mind and yes their place is called Wisteria Cottage ! Now they think they have moved into their perfect family house in a nice quiet village... or have they? Just who is the lady who lives next door...and who is the man that no one else but Stina can see??? 

Absolutely brilliantly written , I definitely see big things happening for this book , it grips you and has you reading into the early hours , making excuses to read it... but oh it is worth it! Have a read of it you won't regret it !
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Cover: Ominous. It’s eye-catching and intriguing, making you focus first on the woman and the child (the main splash of color of the cover) and then on the house.

In Whisper Cottage we follow Stina and Jack, a married couple who decide to ditch their big city life and move to the countryside, hoping for a fresh, bucolic start. They’re expecting a kid; the small village of Avoncote is as charming as the cottage they bought, and the widow who lives next door looks so nice – right?

Right. ‘Nothing is as it seems’ might sound like a cliche, but in Whisper Cottage it happens to be true. Everybody has a dirty secret, past wrongdoings that unravel while the story progresses. Sometimes you have to wonder about the narrator’s reliability; sometimes the reliability is as plain as the day.

Full of twists and turns, and written in third limited—yay!—Whisper Cottage is a slow-paced novel, where flashbacks about Stina’s life are scattered across the main timeline.

Character-wise, I appreciated Mrs. Barley above everyone else. All her idiosyncrasies, her odd behavior – they paint a contradictory and complex character. Is she a witch or is she just eccentric? Is she a malevolent woman, or have people accused her under false pretenses? Stina and Jack, as well as the rest of the supportive cast, tend to be eclipsed by Mrs. Barley. She’s the genuine soul of the book. 

Stina, I won’t deny I had troubles understanding her: her choices and emotions puzzled me more often than not, but I still couldn’t stop reading until the last page. As I said more than once, keeping a reader glued to a book regardless of their personal feelings about a character is the marker of a talented writer.

The only flaw that prevents me from giving Whisper Cottage a full five stars has to do with a couple of strings left untied. However, the plot itself is solid and the twists are satisfying – I didn’t see the last one coming, kudos for that!
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This is definitely a book of two half's.

The first 50% I loved. I thought it was really creepy and eerie. 

I love the old haunted cottage/house trope, it's one of my faves and I loved all the spooky witchcraft elements too. 

I was really gripped and hooked into where the story was going and I was constantly guessing what was going to happen next. 

However, after about 50% of the way through, the book really slowed down. 

I found there was not much happening and very few spooky or creepy things happening. I started to get a little bored. 

It also became very obvious to me who the mystery man was. Although, I did not see the big twist at the end coming, which I did enjoy. 

The writing was good but it definitely lost momentum as it went along. 

Overall, this was an atmospheric and creepy psychological thriller but definitely could have been improved. 

TW: suicide, domestic violence, murder, infanticide, abortion, mental illness and insest
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My thanks to Avon Books U.K. for an eARC via NetGalley of ‘Whisper Cottage’ by Anne Wyn Clark in exchange for an honest review.

This proved an intriguing and atmospheric domestic noir/mystery that held my attention throughout.

In 2012 Stina and Jack are hoping for a fresh start away from the stresses of urban life and move into Wisteria Cottage in the Warwickshire village of Avoncote. They are quickly befriended by their elderly neighbour Mrs Barley, whose cottage adjoins theirs.  
 
When Stina spots a mysterious figure in the widow’s garden and hears strange noises, these incidents increasingly play on her mind. Then there are the villagers who whisper about Mrs Barley. Her insular lifestyle and interest in folklore, herbs, charms, and the like has people murmuring that she is a witch. Yet Stina doesn’t consider herself the superstitious type despite the bumps in the night and Mrs Barley’s eccentricity. 

Stina’s pregnancy and then being befriended by the widow next door did evoke fleeting memories of ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ for me. It added to the suspense.

‘Whisper Cottage’ proved a slow burn with the author building up the day-to-day lives of her characters as well as life in the village over a period of time. I especially liked the way that despite the suspicions of the villagers, Mrs Barley’s beliefs were not sensationalised. With Warwickshire having a rural tradition of folk magic and witchcraft, it seemed a fitting setting. 

Overall, I found ‘Whisper Cottage’ an engaging mystery with good characterisations and genuinely interesting twists and turns. I felt that it was an assured debut and look forward to her future projects.
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I think it's a matter of expectations: I was expecting a thriller with some folk horror elements (based on the plot).
I got a slow burning mystery featuring a MC I didn't like.
The start is exciting and creepy but I wasn't on the edge for most part of the books and felt that the final part was rushed.
Stina grated on my nerves, i liked Mrs Barley 
There's a lot of potential but it didn't work for me.
Not my cup of tea
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine
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This story really gave me an eerie feeling. Almost as if I were waiting for something awful to happen! Who was the ghostly apparition in the summerhouse? Was there something evil about the old lady in the village?  So atmospheric and not just a little creepy. Think that’s why I loved it. Didn’t want to put it down. 
I certainly didn’t expect what came at the ending. That was a real surprise and not what I’d imagined to be the truth at all! 
Absolutely fabulous read. I even learned how to pronounce the word Samhain.  Definitely one to take down on a dark eerie night, with something warm to drink and by a hot fire - just lock the doors….
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OK, I'll be honest. What initially drew me to this book was the character's name - Stina. It is a shortened version of my name that was given to me by a child who couldn't pronounce all three syllables of my name some thirty odd years ago. However, this woman was christened the name which was said to be Swedish. Had it not been for that little tidbit I probably would have passed this book and never read it. The premise wasn't overly intriguing though it did have promise. So I held on to that in the hope it offered up something exciting.

The story opens with a puzzling prologue that drew me in immediately. It's 1964 and a young baby screaming as its mother failing to soothe it in the presence of its somewhat grumpy father who silently swears he will teach that child a lesson or two the next time it dares to scream.

Fast forward some five decades later to 2012 and we meet Jack and Stina, a young couple who have just moved into the picturesque Wisteria Cottage in Avoncote, a chocolate box village just out of Stratford-upon-Avon. Recently married and expecting their first child, Jack and Stina are excited at the prospect of putting down roots in the delightful thatched cottage in the quaint village they now call home. They become quick friends with their neighbour in Rose Cottage, adjoining their own cottage, Mrs Barley a widow who lost her husband Frank forty years before. Although the woman is a little odd with a few eccentricities, the couple are shocked to learn that the community do not hold Mrs Barley in the same esteem. In fact, some villagers would go as far to say that the old woman is a witch and they would do well to steer clear of her. But how could this kindly friendly and helpful old lady be capable of such atrocities for which she's been accused?

Jack is a veterinarian working long hours leaving Stina home alone to befriend the kindly neighbour. But the longer she spends in the old woman's presence, the more Stina gets to know her...and she finds herself beginning to question just how well they really do know their neighbour? Then there are the noises in the night, the sounds coming from the attic, the strange chanting on the other side of the wall...but when Stina confronts Mrs Barley about it the following day, the woman knows nothing about it. Had Stina just imagined the sounds? Particularly when there is no evidence that anything had been moved about in the loft.

When Stina sees a strange man in Mrs Barley's back garden, Jack dismisses it as hormones and sleep deprivation since the birth of their baby daughter Elodie. But Stina knows what she saw. And she had seen him on numerous occasions before their daughter's birth too. And yet still she was the only one to attest to the sighting with no one else having seen the elusive man. Given her mother's own illness, Stina begins to worry that maybe she has a propensity toward mental illness as well. Did she really hear those sounds in the night? Did she really see that strange man who bore a striking resemblance to Mrs Barley's long dead husband Frank? Or is she delusional and suffering both auditory and occipital hallucinations?

But then a dark secret that has long been buried is about to be uncovered, shedding a whole new light on their neighbour....giving them cause to question themselves just how well do they know her?

There are whispers all throughout this book, least of all in the small minds of villagers whose gossip ends up being a form of Chinese whispers where what begins as one thing ends up something completely different! So the whispers of the past and the whispers of the villagers become the whispers in her own mind. And as Stina begins to question her own sanity she also starts to wonder just who her neighbour really is.

I liked both Stina and Jack, and I even liked the kindly old Mrs Barley. I didn't like Stina's bestie Reggie much but on the whole the characters were pretty likeable.

I'm not sure how to categorise WHISPER COTTAGE. It's not really a thriller but then what else could it be? There are whispers of the supernatural, of witches, hexes and curses which is just a little too strange for my liking but is that all there is to the story? Or is there something deeper going on?

I loved the Prologue and enjoyed the ending...but it's the in-between that I found slow and wondered the direction it was taking. I knew there was a story building but I questioned as to how long it was going to take to get there...and whether it would be worth it in the end. Well, be patient because the end will shock you. It was something I never saw coming, that's for sure. But...and this is a big BUT...where on earth does the prologue fit in with the rest of the story? I'm sorry but I saw nothing that linked them and I am at a loss as to who those people were and what it actually meant.

Overall, WHISPER COTTAGE is a fairly enjoyable book despite lacking the addictive thrills and the steady pace. It was atmospheric but not in an eerie gothic way. It held my interest enough to finish it to see how it played out but that's about it.

I would like to thank #AnnWynClark, #Netgalley, #AvonBooks and #RachelsRandomResources for an ARC of #WhisperCottage in exchange for an honest review.
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Whisper Cottage by Anne Wyn Clark was a creepy and dark read. Jack and Stina move to a small village In the middle of nowhere to get a fresh start and raise their child. The little cottage they move into shares a wall with Mrs. Barley, an old lady. It looks like nobody in the village likes Mrs. Barley  and a lot of people think she’s a witch. Weird things start happening at the house that they share and it makes Stina wonder if the villagers are correct. I don’t want to go to much more into the plot  but this was such a weird and creepy little story. I really enjoyed the characters and how not everyone is as innocent as they seem. Definitely check this book out if you like mysteries in small villages and that have a dark feel to them. Thank you to Net Galley and  the publisher for the advanced copy of this book. All opinions on my own.
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I’m not quite sure what to say about this book.  I didn’t love it.   I didn’t hate it.    It was interesting enough for me to want to keep reading, but it fell a little flat for me.  The premise is certainly good - young couple moves out to the country and is quickly befriended by an elderly eccentric neighbor who has what seems to be a dark last and some questionable hobbies.  Just when it started to get all dark and twisty (which I love), it derailed a bit.  I feel like there were quite a few things left unresolved in the end.  

2.5 stars, rounded up.   Thanks to NetGalley, the author and the publisher for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for my honest review.
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Whispher Cottage by Anne Wyn Clark, was a some what enjoyable yet eerie novel.
I was completely drawn into this story and flew through the pages reluctant to put it down until the end.
Thank you to the Publisher and NetGalley for gifting me this review copy.
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This book grabs you right at the beginning and doesn't let go. Strange and creepy it keeps you guessing right to the end. I loved. Looking forward to more by this author.
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