Whistle in the Dark by Emma Healey
eBook review copy; 336 pages
Whistle in the Dark by Emma Healey is a highly recommended psychologically complex mystery.
Lana, the youngest daughter of Jen and Hugh Maddox, has just been found,
bloody, bruised, and soaking wet after being missing for four days. Jen
and fifteen-year-old Lana were taking a painting class in the country
for a mother-daughter
vacation when the teen went missing. Now Lana simple repeats to everyone
who asks that she can't remember what happened to her. Lana, who is
suffering from depression and full of teen angst, has been moody,
difficult, and undergoing counseling after self-harming and a suicide
attempt. So, was she abducted? How did she get hurt?
Jen needs to know the truth and begins to contemplate what happened
before the vacation and reconstruct the events of the painting class.
She begins her own desperate investigation into Lana's life, looking at
her social media interactions, trying to find out what she is telling
friends, looking through her sketchbooks, looking at the books in her
room. Jen is full of anxiety about Lana, and her quest to find answers
becomes an obsession.
Whistle in the Dark has created a quandary for me in terms of
evaluating/rating it. On the one hand it is beautifully written literary
novel that realistically explores in-depth the psychological reactions
of a family and their interpersonal relationships in the midst of
complex situation. Healey authentically captures the reactions of a
truculent teen and a worried inquisitive, hyper-vigilant mother. The
emotional turmoil roiling through the novel is exhausting, but
compelling. The anxiety is palpable and oppressive. Both Jen and Lana
are realistic, complicated characters and their relationship is
thoroughly explored and examined through their interaction. The short
chapters are all from Jen's point-of-view and vacillate back and forth
On the other hand, early on in the novel I was quietly telling Jen (and
the police) where to look for the answers. I was correct. If the central
theme of the novel is the answer to the query "Where was Lana?" then it
isn't a huge mystery because Healey provides the clues to answer the
question early on in the novel. If the theme of the novel is the
exploration and examination of the relationship between a troubled
mentally ill teen and her mother, then it succeeded. However, it is
rather slow moving in regards to both thematic questions.
Healey's Elizabeth is Missing was on my top ten novel of 2014, so I had high hopes (and high expectations) for Whistle in the Dark.
The sheer excellence of the writing, the character development and the
exploration complex psychological reactions met my expectations. The
final resolution... not so much. Still it is a very good novel.
My review copy was courtesy of HarperCollins.