Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Orphan Choir by Sophie Hannah

Louise Beeston is certain she's going mad. Mad over lack of sleep, that is! While she and her husband love their Victorian row house - and paid top dollar for it to boot - they hadn't counted on having the noisy neighbor from hell living next door. At least twice a month Justin Clay and his friends gather together in a karaoke-esque party that involves a repeated playlist of songs drunkenly belted along to by the entire group. And with the connecting walls that means that Louise and her husband Stuart can hear it all. Course it's Saturday night and both Louise and Stuart can allow some concessions if only Clay would agree to turn it down when they request. Sadly Clay sees Louise as nothing more than a nag and a bother and isn't inclined to do her any favors. In fact, he ups the ante by barraging Louise's bedroom with choral music.

Justin Clay knows that Louise's son has recently moved out. He's only seven but the prestigious Saviour College School insists their choir boys board. The combined stress of missing her son and days on end of insomnia have left Louise all but broken and the choral music is a cruel addition to the problem. And so the news about a new second home community nearby seems to be just the solution. But when Louise begins hearing the music again, in her new sanctuary far from Justin Clay, she starts to wonder if she really is losing her mind.

In theory this sounded like the perfect read for me. I've read Sophie Hannah before and enjoy her style (she's the author of the Simon Waterhouse and Charlie Zailer series). I love a good horror story, especially one that relies heavily on tone and emotion rather than gore (we all cringe at blood and guts but to elicit fear based on the building intensity of the story alone is awesome in horror). As you might expect, I did go into this latest from Hannah with fairly high expectations.

The Orphan Choir fell sadly short for me. I believe it's due in large part to the balance of the story itself. It read quickly enough - I was 100 pages in before I looked up and realized how long I'd been reading straight. Unfortunately the bulk of that first chunk of reading was spent on the loud neighbor. I didn't like Louise all that much but she did have some redeeming qualities and setting the scene for her looming breakdown in order to express her need to truly get away was obviously what Hannah was aiming for. It felt like overkill, though.

By the time the story begins to move beyond that I was almost halfway through and wondering how in the world the story could possibly wrap up in that short a period of time. It does. Wrap up that is. But there wasn't enough time spent building the overall suspense. The beginning of the book was overly weighted down with the neighbor complaint and the end came much too quickly for my taste.

Rating: 3/5

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