Saturday, April 19, 2014

Dark, dark, Dark Whispers

The book: Dark Whispers by Joanne Macgregor

And it's about?

When a patient describes an experience of mental torture and sexual mutilation by a gynaecologist at the private hospital where she works, psychologist Megan Wright decides to investigate. Determined to find out the truth and stop the abuse, but bound to silence by the ethics of confidentiality, Megan must enter the dark mind of a dangerously disturbed man.

Between the anaesthesia and the awakening, are the dark whispers.

In a word, it was... Chilling

Dark Whispers is really not the sort of book I ordinarily like to read because I am not much of a fan of crime fiction and/ thrillers but when Joanne mentioned it at book club, my interest was piqued. When the book arrived, I was swamped at work and it eyed my from my bedside table for a few months, I think. When I finally did sit down to start it, I hit it but couldn't quit it.

The premise of Dark Whispers is disturbing enough to keep you away from your PAP smear for a while: a gynaecologist torturing his patients with no ramifications and few women willing (and able) to come forward about the truth. Psychologist Megan Wright, somewhat haphazardly trying to do the right thing and getting dragged down into the dark with all the others. So yeah, that happened. On the whole, the writing is solid, the pacing really clever and there are a few unexpected dark turns that left me chilled. Yaknow, good stuff.

But for me, Dark Whispers stands out in its genre for two reasons:

Reason 1:
Megan is the kind of character who you feel you know. But like, really, really know. Her family and their drama feels authentic and familiar. Her douchey boyfriend makes you want to roll your eyes and tell her 'you're dating this guy? seriously??' Her reactions to the mess she's put herself in are sometimes kind of annoying but not because they are unrealistic. On the contrary, they are annoying because Megan, seriously, have a little self-preservation gurl. There is a crazy gynae that could walk in at any moment and you have no apparent supernatural gifts to fight this guy off so maybe just stay out of it, ok? Granted, I did not like the gay best friend plot device not the sassy secretary but neither were deal breakers. And, more importantly, by the end, I really cared about what happened to Megan. I really felt like I understood her and that's kind of rare in a genre of archetypes and (sorry) cliches.

Reason 2:
The ending was deeply rewarding. Without giving too much away, I found it intellectually challenging because it did not sit easily with Megan or with anyone who would like to think that in a really tough situation, they would ultimately do the right thing. It made me think: what would I do, really? Could I stand up for those women if the cost was my own life? Could I live with the choice not to? These were not superficial moral questions but I feel they actually speak to the heart of the tension between who you are and who you want to be, what happens to you and what you do to yourself.

Anyway, the point is, even though it seems pretty heavy and quite uncomfortable, it is possible to push through that discomfort and find a book that is greatly satisfying at an emotional and intellectual level, starring a strong-ish and authentic female lead dealing with a very twisted, super-creepy situation. Go buy it.

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