Do you believe in ghosts? Have you ever seen one? What about noisy neighbours? The most famous ghost story ever told is set around this time of year. As for my experiences with them, yes I believe in them. Thanks to a rather chilling night in Wicklow’s historic gaol (www.wicklowshistoricgaol.com), south of Dublin and the numerous unexplained stuff featured on Pick TV’s “Most Haunted”. As for the noise from next-door, no, we just have thin walls my neighbours would wholeheartedly agree. So what does this have to do with this month’s book, it’s The Orphan Choir by Sophie Hannah.
Sophie Hannah is a British Novelist and Poet; she has previously written eight psychological thrillers featuring her characters Simon Waterhouse and Charlie Zailer, the most recent being The Carrier (2013). They have been adapted for TV as the series “Case Sensitive” starring Olivia Williams and Darren Boyd. She’s also written two children’s books and this one horror novella also published in 2013.
The Orphan Choir tells the story of Louise Beeston, a mother of one, whose gifted son Joseph is forced to board at a school in Cambridge so he can sing in the schools elite boys’ choir. She doesn’t like this, believing he’s being detained against his will by his choir master but has gone along with her husband’s wishes for the betterment of her son’s education. Then her neighbour Justin or Mr Fahrenheit as she refers to him, who smokes hash and drinks with his fellow delinquent friends, starts playing loud music at all hours of the night at full volume. She complains to the council but to no avail, then she starts to hear not Just “Queen” being played in the wee small hours, but choral music sung by young children. She suspects Mr. Fahrenheit is tormenting her. When the opportunity comes up to move to a private estate in the Cambridgeshire countryside, fearing for her sanity, she jumps at the chance but the choral music doesn’t stop. Louise must find out how Mr. Fahrenheit is managing to get to her this far out of town – or is he responsible?
This is the best time of year to read spooky books, well not just Christmas time, but winter in general. When the nights have closed in and the wind is howling around the rafters. The cover of the book really catches your attention, so does the title. It suggests all manner of things and my mind was racing away at thoughts of what might lie beyond the covers. Alas the book is a let down in certain aspects. Yes it tells a good story and the idea was a good one but it comes across as more like the demented ravings of a menopausal woman than someone haunted by the sounds of an unseen choir of children.
Near the end there are a couple of nice twists and the liturgical responses which pop up through out the story, because they are being sung by the choir would probably add something to the piece if I could sing or even hum them to get a feel for it or if I’d had the time to hunt the music out and have it playing in the background while reading. This only confirmed my suspicions that unless you are familiar with the music featured in the book, it would only really get the hair standing on the back your head if it was adapted for radio. But apart from that it falls short of the first rule of horror writing… Scare them.
So over the remaining months and weeks of winter, if you’re searching for something to have you looking over your shoulder, and flinching at every little sound on those dark cold evenings, this book isn’t it. Me, I’d worry about the credit card bill that’s coming in a couple of week’s time, that’s the scariest thing, this side of Christmas.
Let me take this opportunity to thank all those of you who have started to follow The Library Door and through the various social media made others aware of it’s existence. May you have a happy new year and enjoy reading all my future reviews from beyond The Library Door. Adrian