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Inspired by the McMartin preschool trials and the Satanic Panic of the ‘80s, the critically acclaimed author of The Remaking delivers another pulse pounding, true-crime-based horror novel. Richard doesn’t have a past. For him, there is only the present: a new marriage to Tamara, a first chance at fatherhood to her son Elijah, and a quiet but pleasant life as an art teacher Inspired by the McMartin preschool trials and the Satanic Panic of the ‘80s, the critically acclaimed author of The Remaking delivers another pulse pounding, true-crime-based horror novel. Richard doesn’t have a past. For him, there is only the present: a new marriage to Tamara, a first chance at fatherhood to her son Elijah, and a quiet but pleasant life as an art teacher at Elijah’s elementary school in Danvers, Virginia. Then the body of a rabbit, ritualistically murdered, appears on the school grounds with a birthday card for Richard tucked beneath it. Richard doesn’t have a birthday—but Sean does . . . Sean is a five-year-old boy who has just moved to Greenfield, Virginia, with his mother. Like most mothers of the 1980s, she’s worried about bills, childcare, putting food on the table . . . and an encroaching threat to American life that can take the face of anyone: a politician, a friendly neighbor, or even a teacher. When Sean’s school sends a letter to the parents revealing that Sean’s favorite teacher is under investigation, a white lie from Sean lights a fire that engulfs the entire nation—and Sean and his mother are left holding the match. Now, thirty years later, someone is here to remind Richard that they remember what Sean did. And though Sean doesn’t exist anymore, someone needs to pay the price for his lies.


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Inspired by the McMartin preschool trials and the Satanic Panic of the ‘80s, the critically acclaimed author of The Remaking delivers another pulse pounding, true-crime-based horror novel. Richard doesn’t have a past. For him, there is only the present: a new marriage to Tamara, a first chance at fatherhood to her son Elijah, and a quiet but pleasant life as an art teacher Inspired by the McMartin preschool trials and the Satanic Panic of the ‘80s, the critically acclaimed author of The Remaking delivers another pulse pounding, true-crime-based horror novel. Richard doesn’t have a past. For him, there is only the present: a new marriage to Tamara, a first chance at fatherhood to her son Elijah, and a quiet but pleasant life as an art teacher at Elijah’s elementary school in Danvers, Virginia. Then the body of a rabbit, ritualistically murdered, appears on the school grounds with a birthday card for Richard tucked beneath it. Richard doesn’t have a birthday—but Sean does . . . Sean is a five-year-old boy who has just moved to Greenfield, Virginia, with his mother. Like most mothers of the 1980s, she’s worried about bills, childcare, putting food on the table . . . and an encroaching threat to American life that can take the face of anyone: a politician, a friendly neighbor, or even a teacher. When Sean’s school sends a letter to the parents revealing that Sean’s favorite teacher is under investigation, a white lie from Sean lights a fire that engulfs the entire nation—and Sean and his mother are left holding the match. Now, thirty years later, someone is here to remind Richard that they remember what Sean did. And though Sean doesn’t exist anymore, someone needs to pay the price for his lies.

30 review for Whisper Down the Lane

  1. 5 out of 5

    karen

    NOW AVAILABLE!!! fulfilling my 2021 goal to read one book each month by an author i have never read despite owning more than one of their books. dammit. i was SO excited to get an ARC of this, and i really wanted to love it, but although it opens with a fantastic gotcha-pop of misdirection, the rest was kind of a slow fizzle for me. it's about the satanic panic that swept thru 1980's america, and is based on the mcmartin preschool trials, where a bunch of little kids were coaxed/coerced into a sale NOW AVAILABLE!!! fulfilling my 2021 goal to read one book each month by an author i have never read despite owning more than one of their books. dammit. i was SO excited to get an ARC of this, and i really wanted to love it, but although it opens with a fantastic gotcha-pop of misdirection, the rest was kind of a slow fizzle for me. it's about the satanic panic that swept thru 1980's america, and is based on the mcmartin preschool trials, where a bunch of little kids were coaxed/coerced into a salem witch trial-y situation, accusing their teachers of various crimes; everything from sexual abuse to flushing kids down the toilet. if you're not familiar with the details, you should click on that link up there because it's bonkers. Whisper Down the Lane approaches its parallel scenario from two different timelines—the accusations and their repercussions—in alternating chapters intriguingly named: damned if you do/sean: 1983 and damned if you don't/richard: 2013 although i came up in the 80s, i was too little and my parents too sensible for that whole satanic panic phenomenon to have had any impact on my life, and reading this book was the first time i realized how broad satan's net had been cast back then. obviously, ozzy osbourne and dungeons and dragons were team devil, but lucky charms? the smurfs? i had no idea that so many things i enjoyed as a kid were after my soul, and i honestly would have thought the satanic alliances attributed to cabbage patch kids and ronald mcdonald were invented for this book if i hadn't stumbled upon these two gems in my post-reading research: which i now NEED to own, along with their author's other title: i can't find any information about what that one is about, but i want to know very badly, so if anyone can hook me up with info, please you MUST. back to the book i am meant to be reviewing. i enjoy horror in any medium, even though the part of me that is responsible for activating my jumpy-goosebumpy fear response is busted*. still, i keep trying, and i can recognize effective horror even when, even though it doesn't give me the juicy shivers i want so bad. i didn't find this one scary at all, but it builds tension well, there are some strong disturbing descriptive scenes, and it hovers in that satisfying 'is this real or is this madness?' limbo just long enough before committing to a side. it's not a bad story, there's just nothing particularly surprising here if you've been around the horror block a time or two. the best parts are the 80s-era interactions between five-year-old sean and the child psychologist with her creepy therapy puppet and her way of manipulating a desired response with leading questions and straight-up bullying. i will say, though, that there is some distractingly clunky prose here; unnecessarily repetitive and awkward, which kept taking me out of the story to wince. i read the arc, so maybe it'll be fixed by then, but just to give a couple of examples: There was power in unifying their voices, these mothers learned. A combined strength. Unity. They could harness their concerns and make it one voice. One loud, determined voice. and ...Condrey considers us all to be one big, happy academic family. As in, "arguing-with-your-right-wing-uncle-about-whether-or-not-Obama-was-born-in-the-USA-during-Thanksgiving-dinner" type of family. That's what kind of family our faculty is. overall it's...just okay. it was neither scary enough nor satirical-funny enough for my personal tastes, but remember i'm just one human whose tastes and opinions are different from every other human's tastes, and so are you! coincidentally, this story ran in the ny times the day i wrote this review, and may be of interest: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/31/us... * it is only busted when it comes to horror-as-entertainment—real life terrifies me all the time. come to my blog!!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    This book brings us back to the Satanic Panic days of the 1980's. Sean, a five year old boy, tells a lie about his kindergarten teacher that spirals out of control and helps fuel the Satanic Panic at the time. The trial took over a year and while it was proven to be a hoax the six teachers and staff accused will never be the same again. His English teacher even ends up committing suicide. Sean, now known as Richard, is an art teacher and he just recently got married. He and his wife are in discu This book brings us back to the Satanic Panic days of the 1980's. Sean, a five year old boy, tells a lie about his kindergarten teacher that spirals out of control and helps fuel the Satanic Panic at the time. The trial took over a year and while it was proven to be a hoax the six teachers and staff accused will never be the same again. His English teacher even ends up committing suicide. Sean, now known as Richard, is an art teacher and he just recently got married. He and his wife are in discussions to have Richard adopt her son Elijah. Suddenly strange things begin happening to Richard. Even in his own classroom he doesn't feel safe. It's as if his memories of his past are coming back to haunt him. Then one of his students makes an accusation about him shattering any stability he once felt. Now jobless and homeless he needs to figure out who is doing this to him and why. I had a few issues with this one. I was a kid in the 80's but I don't really remember any adults that I know of terrified of The Smurfs, Cabbage Patch Dolls, and Lucky Charms to name a few. Not to say it didn't happen, obviously it did, but my brain just can not accept how gullible and downright foolish these people were. You think a marshmallow is the devil? Really? My parents and I watched horror movies together so they weren't exactly of delicate sensibilities. I struggled through 5 year old Sean's narrative with all the baby talk. Think wee wee, poo poo etc. My biggest issue though is with the psychiatrist that treats Sean as a child. What an awful person she is. Basically forcing this child to admit to things that never ever occurred and calling him stupid if he didn't. She is the guiltiest person in this book as far as I am concerned. At about the half way point I had an idea of who was behind everything and it proved to be right. Many triggers to be had here including death of a bunny rabbit and while the death does happen off page the aftermath is described vividly on page. 2 stars! Thank you to Edelweiss and Quirk Books for providing me a digital ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Nenia ✨ I yeet my books back and forth ✨ Campbell

    Instagram || Twitter || Facebook || Amazon || Pinterest WHISPER DOWN THE LANE is a psychological horror novel that obviously draws heavy inspiration from the McMartin preschool trial and the "Satanic panic" of the 1980s. It is told in two POVs, one POV from a boy named Sean who lives with his single mother in the 1980s. The other POV is from a jaded art teacher named Richard in the 2010s and his own family. As the book goes on, and the two stories begin to mirror each other, the reader learns Instagram || Twitter || Facebook || Amazon || Pinterest WHISPER DOWN THE LANE is a psychological horror novel that obviously draws heavy inspiration from the McMartin preschool trial and the "Satanic panic" of the 1980s. It is told in two POVs, one POV from a boy named Sean who lives with his single mother in the 1980s. The other POV is from a jaded art teacher named Richard in the 2010s and his own family. As the book goes on, and the two stories begin to mirror each other, the reader learns how the two connect. I actually learned a lot about cases like these because I was a psychology major in school and one of the areas I chose to specialize in was cognition. In one portion of my course, we learned a lot about false memories. One of the ways that false memories can be created is by leading questions, which is why police need to be trained in the types of questions they can ask witnesses-- due to the potential of interview contamination. Even the way a question is asked can bias a witness, and as we can see here in this book, small children can be particularly susceptible to those in positions of authorities. From a research perspective, I think this book was done very well. Anyone who is at all familiar with these cases resulting from the moral panic and mass hysteria is going to recognize the parallels. I also appreciated the author listing all of his sources in the back of the book; it's wonderful that he gave credit where credit is due. (Fewer authors seem to be listing bibliographies these days.) Where this book failed, for me, was from a story-telling perspective. I felt like this author was trying to channel Stephen King, and noticed several of King's tics here-- disembodied quotes and dialogue, insertions of seemingly innocent pop-culture slogans or song lyrics used in a sinister way-- but it kept pulling me out of the narrative because the way it was done felt so cheesy, and it was done so much. I also... didn't really like or sympathize with any of the characters? Everyone was so awful. I felt sorry for Sean but... what he did was bad. And Richard wasn't great, either. He's so cynical that he makes pulp noir detectives look like Polyannas. And while I can understand why he acts and thinks the way he does given his background, it made it hard to root for him or be invested in his story. There's also a pretty graphic animal death in this book that occurs at just under halfway through (47% by my count?) that I found pretty upsetting. I kept reading, hoping that the ending would somehow redeem the book for me, but it just ended up making everything feel just as bleak and misanthropic and hopeless. Usually, Quirk books are fun and campy-- kind of like an homage to pulp horror. One of their most famous authors is Grady Hendrix, and THE SOUTHERN BOOK CLUB'S GUIDE TO SLAYING VAMPIRES is about as these books usually get, but the horror in that book felt like dark comic book violence, whereas this, tonally, felt much more grim and desolate. I'm reading another book from them right now called LYCANTHROPY AND OTHER CHRONIC ILLNESSES which is more typical of their brand: light, quirky fiction, often with a bizarre supernatural bent. I didn't hate this book and I think people who love depressing 80s horror movies will love this. I, however, did not. Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review! 2 to 2.5 stars

  4. 4 out of 5

    Ellen Gail

    I should NOT have read this months before its release date, because how the heck am I supposed to keep my mouth shut about it until APRIL!? Just be prepared for me at some point to word vomit about this twisty fucker. Update! It is now March, which means it's review writing time. Whisper Down the Lane was absolutely a case of right book / right reader. I will always be fascinated by Satanic Panic, witch hunts, and various moral panics in general (semi related, but there's a great podcast episode th I should NOT have read this months before its release date, because how the heck am I supposed to keep my mouth shut about it until APRIL!? Just be prepared for me at some point to word vomit about this twisty fucker. Update! It is now March, which means it's review writing time. Whisper Down the Lane was absolutely a case of right book / right reader. I will always be fascinated by Satanic Panic, witch hunts, and various moral panics in general (semi related, but there's a great podcast episode that talks about moral panic and the horror genre that I absolutely recommend: Horror and Moral Panic (Dead Meat Podcast #41)) Anyway, books like Dark Places and Devil's Knot: The True Story of the West Memphis Three, classics like The Crucible, right down to TV episodes like Buffy's "Gingerbread" are right in my wheelhouse. So this book was made to be enjoyed by me. Is it perfect? Nah, but it's solidly entertaining. I will say there's A LOT of graphic animal violence, that I did not enjoy, so be prepared for that. I did like the two POVs, the first being a five year old boy named Sean in the 1980s, living in a new town with his mom, who is just trying to make ends meet and protect her son. I was a little worried since kid perspectives can be kind of cloying or artificial, but I thought Sean's voice felt fairly natural. And in present day we have Richard, an elementary school art teacher and first time step-dad. (view spoiler)[It was fairly obvious early on that Sean and Richard are the same person, but I didn't mind. No matter when you figure this out, the dual perspective works. (hide spoiler)] Combined with solid writing and a good pace, it's an easy enough read, aside from subject matter. Like I said the stuff about animal deaths, manipulation of susceptible children, and gaslighting is emotionally difficult to process sometimes. Also, it's more of a creepy thriller than it is outright scary. A lot of the horror elements come from the clash between perception and reality and the psychological trauma that can inflict, especially in children. I was kind of lukewarm on the ending, but I enjoyed the rest of the book enough that I don't mind much. I think the final pages just didn't match the expectations I had for it in my head. Which, how dare it. Everything that happens in my head is automatically right and perfect. We know this. All kidding aside, if Satanic Panic, cycles of trauma, and dual narratives are your thing, Whisper Down the Lane is a great choice. I certainly enjoyed it.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Rachel (TheShadesofOrange)

    4.0 Stars This was not quite the occult horror novel I was expecting to read, but nevertheless I ended up really enjoying the story that I read. The early marketing compared this book to Dark Places by Gillian Flynn, but I would rather compare it to something like Night Swim by Meagan Golden, which discusses a controversial topic through the narrative structure of a thriller. To be clear, this book is more about the satanic panic rather than Satan himself. The story has harm to animals in it's ope 4.0 Stars This was not quite the occult horror novel I was expecting to read, but nevertheless I ended up really enjoying the story that I read. The early marketing compared this book to Dark Places by Gillian Flynn, but I would rather compare it to something like Night Swim by Meagan Golden, which discusses a controversial topic through the narrative structure of a thriller. To be clear, this book is more about the satanic panic rather than Satan himself. The story has harm to animals in it's opening sequence, but there is very little beyond that. The story addresses how easily children can be manipulated to provide false testimony through leading questions and the terrible ramifications that result from those false allegations. I would describe this book as more topical than terrifying. Told of multiple perspectives, I found both the present day and past timelines nearly equally engaging. Shaun was a cute protagonist, highlighting life in the 1980s while Richard's perspective gave an accurate description of the hurdles of both being a teacher and a stepfather. I thought it was rather obvious how the two perspectives were interconnected so there was not a lot of mystery there. Still I found the story to be very engaging. While fiction, this familiar narrative is very much inspired by true events. The ending was perhaps a bit underwhelming only because I knew exactly where the story was going, but I still enjoyed the journey. I would recommend this one to both horror and thriller readers who are interested in a story that explores the moral complexities surrounding the Satanic Panic of the 1980s. Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Ashley Daviau

    I am very firmly in the camp of give me anything and everything related to the Satanic Panic. I’m just absolutely fascinated by it and I eat that shit up. That being said this is one of my favourite Satanic Panic stories I’ve EVER read. I have no words that can accurately describe how freaking AMAZING and out of this world this book was but I’m going to give it a try. I knew it would be good but I had no idea just how good it would be and it absolutely blew my mind! To see how one small lie can I am very firmly in the camp of give me anything and everything related to the Satanic Panic. I’m just absolutely fascinated by it and I eat that shit up. That being said this is one of my favourite Satanic Panic stories I’ve EVER read. I have no words that can accurately describe how freaking AMAZING and out of this world this book was but I’m going to give it a try. I knew it would be good but I had no idea just how good it would be and it absolutely blew my mind! To see how one small lie can snowball into something so huge that spanned decades was so fascinating and I couldn’t get enough of it. It was deliciously twisted and I loved seeing it all play out. I sat down to read it before bed and told myself I’d only read 50 pages and then lights off and then the next thing I knew it was 3am and I was finished. This isn’t just one the best horror books I’ve read this year but one of the best horror books I’ve EVER read. It was dark and gritty and by the end of it I felt like I’d sell my soul to get more of this story!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Cynthia

    As a young child, Sean told a lie about his teacher, saying what he believed his mother wanted to hear, and that lie spiraled into something much bigger; something detrimental for the targeted teacher. Thirty years later, Sean is a boy who no longer exists. But Richard exists and Richard is a man who doesn’t want to remember his past. He doesn’t want to think about the consequences of his choice. But it doesn’t matter what Richard wants. Somebody else wants to make sure he never forgets. Let’s t As a young child, Sean told a lie about his teacher, saying what he believed his mother wanted to hear, and that lie spiraled into something much bigger; something detrimental for the targeted teacher. Thirty years later, Sean is a boy who no longer exists. But Richard exists and Richard is a man who doesn’t want to remember his past. He doesn’t want to think about the consequences of his choice. But it doesn’t matter what Richard wants. Somebody else wants to make sure he never forgets. Let’s talk about cute animals first - get that out of the way - because I don’t want you to hate me if I haven’t sufficiently warned you prior to getting you invested in a book that I thought was spectacular. Horror authors - they definitely know how to probe at their readers’ emotions - and I guess I understand why they do what they do sometimes. But I don’t like it. And I know a lot of you won’t like it. So, fair warning: This is a captivating story, but there are two brutally descriptive animal deaths in the book. It’s upsetting. Very, very upsetting. Okay, so are you still with me? Are you ready to read about how much I loved this book? Good! I, as a kid growing up in the eighties, with parents who considered Halloween and Friday the 13th to be excellent family movie options, was wholly unaware of the fact that there were other parents burning Cabbage Patch Kids and viewing marshmallows in kids’ cereals as anything other than sweet deliciousness. In short, I was oblivious to this thing called the Satanic Panic. I’d heard some rumors about The Smurfs, but that wasn’t until adulthood. I just… didn’t know. Whisper Down the Lane weaves that concept into something more. The author creates a situation that involves both mass hysteria and the far-reaching consequences of a lie. In terms of horror, this is relatively tame, aside from the aforementioned animal deaths, but it does give the reader a lot of unsettling notions to consider. I found this story to be fast-paced and meaningful, with undying relevance in its message. It’s very sad, too, when the impact of one fib is fully understood. The book ultimately challenges the reader with a question: Who is the actual monster of this story? As long as you can stomach the animal scenes, you may find yourself enjoying this as much as I did. It embraced some of the psychological themes I love exploring and I fully believe that the positives outweigh everything else. This was a clever way to communicate a vital message about human vulnerability. We are often inclined to believe that we are not easily influenced and that may be one of the most dangerous beliefs that we possess. Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for my digital review copy. I also was fortunate to receive a physical ARC from a friend. All opinions are my own. Whisper Down the Lane is available for preorder now and will be published on April 6, 2021.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Horror Bookworm Reviews

    https://horrorbookwormreviews.com/ Richard Bellamy has moved his livelihood to the small town of Danvers. There he begins his kindergarten art teacher job as well as his new role of husband and step-father to wife Tamara and step-son Elijah. However, when Richard’s childhood torments begin gradually emerging, accusations of the most heinous crimes begin to surface from the past, linking itself to present day occurrences and beyond. Could history have begun to repeat itself, or is it a disturbing https://horrorbookwormreviews.com/ Richard Bellamy has moved his livelihood to the small town of Danvers. There he begins his kindergarten art teacher job as well as his new role of husband and step-father to wife Tamara and step-son Elijah. However, when Richard’s childhood torments begin gradually emerging, accusations of the most heinous crimes begin to surface from the past, linking itself to present day occurrences and beyond. Could history have begun to repeat itself, or is it a disturbing masquerade of sinister intentions? Set in the 1980s, author Clay McLeod Chapman delves into the horror behind the term “satanic panic” that was so well known within this time period. His fusion of past and present ping pong back and forth with tense, abhorrent subject matter. Having a vessel to guide satanic ritualistic undertones throughout the storyline, Chapman proclaims an evil and combines it with unimaginable coercive accusations. While treading on explosive and edgy topics, the central characters suffer because of hidden implications that are slowly revealed. What happens if you believe in a lie so much it comes true, even if the voice happens to be coming from an innocent kindergartener? To be the intended target of such a terrible accusation is scary enough, but when it involves children, that fear doubles. This is where the reader will experience how a narrative can become a fountain of false testimony and how evil can be perceived and misconstrued into something that it’s not. Chapman is a maestro at building grim suspense to the point of unimaginable consequences, proving genuine horror dwells in the world we live in today. Potential psychological damage may not come from a source one expects. It could very well come from authoritative figures such as teachers, preachers, and political leaders. The reading audience will attend activities such as midnight masses, grave robbing, and satanic orgies involving cannibalism. Introductions will be made to personalities in all their distorted glory; in particular Mr. Stitch, Mr. Yucky, and The Bad Snatcher. These hidden truths and unconventional personas are explored in Whisper Down The Lane, with a plot that subverts expectations. Readers, be prepared to play a deranged version of the children’s game, Whisper Down The Lane. Hearing classroom whispers of welcoming Devil’s disciples and Satan worshippers to come out and play along with their demented games, will eventually lead to a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” life lesson. A very strong recommendation to read this one. Enjoy the façade. (originally posted at mysteryandsuspense.com)

  9. 5 out of 5

    Kasha's Book Sematary

    This novel felt like a really interesting and engaging documentary based on the Satanic Panic of the 80s. We follow Sean and Richard. Sean is 5 and he lives with his struggling single mom. Richard has recently married Tamara and is happy with his job as an art teacher at school. However there is a lot more about these two characters that we will get to slowly unveil while we follow Sean in 1982-83 and Richard in 2013 Even though I was expecting a bit more horror and darkness from the story, the bo This novel felt like a really interesting and engaging documentary based on the Satanic Panic of the 80s. We follow Sean and Richard. Sean is 5 and he lives with his struggling single mom. Richard has recently married Tamara and is happy with his job as an art teacher at school. However there is a lot more about these two characters that we will get to slowly unveil while we follow Sean in 1982-83 and Richard in 2013 Even though I was expecting a bit more horror and darkness from the story, the book was such a treat. It is a fast paced, addictive story that it does get dark towards the end and it explores what happened back in the 80s when the parents started to believe that certain music bands, dolls and even cereals were trying to get their children to sell their souls to the devil.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie (That's What She Read)

    After going through a small reading slump, I found a book I could not put down. This is a great read for those of us who are fascinated by the Satanic Panic, and felt aftershocks of that (my husband's parents thought Pokemon were Satanic). This sent me down a Wikipedia rabbit hole when I was done. I think it really does a great job of portraying how things like this can easily get out of hand, and how impressionable kids are. Great if you are interested in the Satanic Panic and love a good dual After going through a small reading slump, I found a book I could not put down. This is a great read for those of us who are fascinated by the Satanic Panic, and felt aftershocks of that (my husband's parents thought Pokemon were Satanic). This sent me down a Wikipedia rabbit hole when I was done. I think it really does a great job of portraying how things like this can easily get out of hand, and how impressionable kids are. Great if you are interested in the Satanic Panic and love a good dual narrative thriller

  11. 5 out of 5

    Stay Fetters

    "They want to create chaos. They want to let the world burn. Its houses of worship, its schools. They want the world to descend into darkness and let their master rise, rise up and bask in the flames of our nation." The year is 1983. Ronald Reagan is President, Microsoft Word launched itself into our lives, and Pat Sajak and Vanna White spun the wheel for big money. But there was something darker lurking in that year. Something so sinister that it would ruin people’s lives. The Satanic Panic hit "They want to create chaos. They want to let the world burn. Its houses of worship, its schools. They want the world to descend into darkness and let their master rise, rise up and bask in the flames of our nation." The year is 1983. Ronald Reagan is President, Microsoft Word launched itself into our lives, and Pat Sajak and Vanna White spun the wheel for big money. But there was something darker lurking in that year. Something so sinister that it would ruin people’s lives. The Satanic Panic hit the country and it took over. It was in schools, church, and even on television. One of the major issues was that kids would whisper to one another playing the game of telephone. They would whisper evil things and the story would grow more horrifying as the tale went on. People would be exiled and put on trial for things they may not have done. What would you do? Would you be able to hold back judgment after hearing these vile things? Or would you follow the justice system? This book brought back a lot of memories. I was too young to remember this happening in the 80s but I remember hearing all of this in the 90s. It infiltrated almost every single talk show and even was the top story on the news. It was insane and this story follows right in those footsteps. It was pure satanic insanity. I never knew where this story was going to lead and I felt as if I was being pulled in tons of different directions. I don’t think Sean’s story is quite over yet because I have a feeling that a certain Mom will be back to haunt and spread more panic. I’m waiting with evil delight! Whisper Down the Lane was a great book with lots of spooky/gory moments. The story kept me entertained throughout and it never slowed down. Things did get kind of repetitive but it was all worth it in the end. Just be careful who you meet up with. You never know if they’re interested in you or what’s inside of you.....

  12. 4 out of 5

    Nicole

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This was a cool mix of horror & crime, delving back to the 1980s when the Satanic Panic gripped America & Cabbage Patch Kids were the devil's work. Sean is a 5 year old who likes it when he starts getting attention for a story he seems to be telling right as more adults want to hear him. Forward 30 years and Richard has just married & settled into his teaching gig when something happens that makes him zone out. Things start to happen and he's not sure if he's seeing things or who's doing it. But This was a cool mix of horror & crime, delving back to the 1980s when the Satanic Panic gripped America & Cabbage Patch Kids were the devil's work. Sean is a 5 year old who likes it when he starts getting attention for a story he seems to be telling right as more adults want to hear him. Forward 30 years and Richard has just married & settled into his teaching gig when something happens that makes him zone out. Things start to happen and he's not sure if he's seeing things or who's doing it. But he left all that behind. He was only little. What if The Others have found him. What if it wasn't all a story at all? Great pace, sinister & compelling. Thank you Quirk Books for my Gifted proof copy via Stephen.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Red Lace Reviews

    With a new marriage and a chance at fatherhood, Richard Bellamy has a quiet life as an elementary school art teacher, but soon the security and comfort he’s built for himself is at risk. Someone’s out to remind him of a past left behind, when a white lie told by a boy horrified a nation. Trying to keep his family together, Richard has to face the truth. (WARNING: This review contains minor spoilers.) I received this book in exchange for an honest review. I thank Quirk Books and NetGalley for givin With a new marriage and a chance at fatherhood, Richard Bellamy has a quiet life as an elementary school art teacher, but soon the security and comfort he’s built for himself is at risk. Someone’s out to remind him of a past left behind, when a white lie told by a boy horrified a nation. Trying to keep his family together, Richard has to face the truth. (WARNING: This review contains minor spoilers.) I received this book in exchange for an honest review. I thank Quirk Books and NetGalley for giving me the opportunity. Thankfully, I wasn’t around for the absolute mess that was the Satanic Panic that raged across the USA and other parts of the world, so I feel like I learned a lot from Whisper Down the Lane. Inspired by the rather disturbing McMartin preschool trial where several staff members were falsely accused of child abuse, Chapman created a version that was equally unpleasant. Alternating between dual narratives, one being a child’s perspective in 1983, the other an art teacher’s in the more modern day of 2013, the plot thoroughly explored the psychological effects relating to hysteria, paranoia, as well as the consequences of one’s actions. To put it simply, it was about humans doing human things, interference from the devil himself not required for events to get out of hand. I was interested despite not finding anything particularly creepy, conspiracy theories being thought-provoking, and in this case, infuriating. Five-year-old Sean believed that by lying about his teacher and appeasing the people around him, he was doing the right thing – his story’s a prime example of how adults use children to progress their agendas. This happens every day in the real world. Saying that, my biggest issue was with Richard himself, his inability to complete sentences and actually say what he needed to left me frustrated, add to that his unreliability due to his rapidly declining mental health. It was a case where the whole ordeal could’ve been over had he just fessed up sooner rather than later, and while I appreciate complex, troubled characters that can prove challenging to understand, sometimes I’m just unable to mesh with them. Sean’s perspective was a lot more engrossing, his innocence taken advantage of, and I especially felt a lot when the suggestive questioning came into play. In general, the plot had both highs and lows, the reveals that I felt were supposed to be significant twists being mostly predictable, however credit where it’s due, one got me pretty good and left me surprised. Also, there were elements throughout that could’ve been interpreted as supernatural, but they were vague, therefore I believed the only thing haunting Richard was his own personal demons. I wouldn’t recommend to a reader wanting a full on occult horror experience, this just isn’t that sort of book. In conclusion: Whisper Down the Lane caused me to go down a rabbit hole, because while being aware of the hysteria of the Satanic Panic, I never made the effort to go in depth. Chapman depicted a young character swept up into a very adult world, manipulated and led to construct a story that would destroy lives. I couldn’t quite quell my irritation in some parts, mostly related to one specific half of the narrative, but overall it left me eager to know what would happen next. To be clear, I’d consider it more as a thriller with some mystery elements that were a tad obvious, but in the right hands, this novel will tick all the boxes. Notable Quote: Imagine a fib you told as a child. A little white lie. Now imagine that lie taking on a life of its own. © Red Lace 2021 Blog ~ Twitter

  14. 4 out of 5

    Nicole

    Chilling! As a parent of a preschooler, WHISPER DOWN THE LANE is a terrifying reminder of the responsibility of parenting and how easy it is for our best intentions to be the thing that unwittingly messes up our kids. This book is going to haunt me for a long time.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Woodbury

    2.5 stars. There is weirdly little horror about the Satanism hysteria of the 80's so I had high hopes for this, but alas. If you're unfamiliar with these stories, then this will probably be more interesting, but if you know them it just feels like a retread of the same old stuff without taking us anywhere new. The first scene of this book is sly and sharp and creepy as hell, but after that we fall quickly into the kind of basic horror that has been the norm of the genre for a while and that I nev 2.5 stars. There is weirdly little horror about the Satanism hysteria of the 80's so I had high hopes for this, but alas. If you're unfamiliar with these stories, then this will probably be more interesting, but if you know them it just feels like a retread of the same old stuff without taking us anywhere new. The first scene of this book is sly and sharp and creepy as hell, but after that we fall quickly into the kind of basic horror that has been the norm of the genre for a while and that I never find all that interesting. A decent guy at its center, a decent woman that he loves, a child who represents both innocence and danger, a very white every-town. Richard is a Good Guy With a Past, he is somehow an art teacher at a private elementary school, and his big secret is that as a child he was the primary witness in a famous case (falsely) accusing a teacher of abuse and Satanism. But now creepy things are happening and maybe there are really Satanists who have it out for Richard. Things are so over-explained here, half the book is Richard's childhood flashbacks, and I would have liked it much better if we spent less time in the past and made it something more mysterious and unknown, if the possibility of the supernatural was more real. Long sections of the book are devoted to the "therapy" sessions where child Richard is led into the story the adults want him to tell. What's important is Richard's guilt and fear, and the more of the story we get the more that gets diluted instead of built up. The book wants to have it both ways. It wants to be clear that there were no Satanists in the 80's except it needs the possibility of them to make the modern storyline scary. It makes it quite clear that Richard as a child isn't to blame for what happened, but it requires him to feel constant guilt so that he feels paranoid. For me, if you take something known like this, you need to bring a new point of view, a new twist, a new something. But this feels like everything I have already heard a thousand times. If you want a book that dives all the way into the Satanic Panic that is basically perfect, I highly recommend ILL WILL by Dan Chaon. For something more bubble-gum for horror fans, the movie I Summon the Darkness is fluff, but it's good fun and has more of a point of view than this book.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Tracy

    I was pretty creeped out for a while, and I wasn't quite sure where it was going I was a little worried that Richard was a creeper. As a young teen in the 80's, I was a big horror reader. While I was reading, I was thinking about some of the "true stories" I had read along with the fiction, and one of the references at the end of the book was one I'd read I was pretty creeped out for a while, and I wasn't quite sure where it was going I was a little worried that Richard was a creeper. As a young teen in the 80's, I was a big horror reader. While I was reading, I was thinking about some of the "true stories" I had read along with the fiction, and one of the references at the end of the book was one I'd read

  17. 4 out of 5

    The Library Ladies

    (originally reviewed at thelibraryladies.com ) Thank you to Quirk Books for sending me an eARC via NetGalley! As a person who has very, shall we say, passionate feelings about certain topics, there are a few subjects that will send me off on rants, be they happy or angry or what have you. One of those topics that is of the ‘angry’ variety is that of Satanic Panic, a period in American History during the 1980s and early 1990s in which people started to believe that there were hidden Satanists al (originally reviewed at thelibraryladies.com ) Thank you to Quirk Books for sending me an eARC via NetGalley! As a person who has very, shall we say, passionate feelings about certain topics, there are a few subjects that will send me off on rants, be they happy or angry or what have you. One of those topics that is of the ‘angry’ variety is that of Satanic Panic, a period in American History during the 1980s and early 1990s in which people started to believe that there were hidden Satanists all over who wanted nothing more than to molest children and sacrifice them and do other things horrible things all to please Satan. This led to a hysteria fueled by Evangelicals, unethical psychologists, manipulated testimonials, and daytime talk show hosts, and in turn led to a lot of people being unfairly accused of horrific things that didn’t happen, and it wrecked peoples lives. It is a subject that makes my blood boil (and it sure doesn’t help that with the rise of QAnon we are starting to see a new breed of secret Satan conspiracy theories in real time). This brings me to “Whisper Down the Lane” by Clay McLeod Chapman, which takes the infamous McMartin Preschool Trials and makes a novel about a man who, when he was a child, told lies about his Kindergarten teacher, and is now as an adult having lies told about him. I steeled myself, ready to be pissed as hell as I read. And reader, boy was I. As “Whisper Down the Lane” is probably supposed to get you riled up, as a story it works. BOY does it work. We get to see a frustrating and also unsettling narrative about Richard, who has tried to forget that he is actually Sean, a boy who told many awful lies about his Kindergarten teacher Mr. Woodhouse, because he liked the attention and because he thought that he was doing what his mother wanted. The mystery of who has started stalking Richard as an adult and has started to try to ruin his life in the same way he ruined Mr. Woodhouse’s is a promising and enticing storyline, as the question is is someone after him, or is this a manifestation of his own repressed guilt? This in turn leads to some very creepy moments, and it also does a fantastic and cathartic dressing down of Satanic Panic and how it preyed upon the misguided fears of a lot of people, and in turn did a lot of damage. Instead of portraying Richard’s/Sean’s mom as a zealous true believer, we got to see a fairly normal single mother with understandable anxieties swept up into something that is untrue, as it take advantage of those anxieties. I didn’t LIKE her as a character, but I don’t think you are supposed to. But I also liked that Chapman gave her some grace, showing that it was this horror of something happening to her son, and then the horror realizing that something HADN’T, that had some tragic fallout. Chapman does draw some really insightful parallels to Satanic Panic of the 80s and the whackadoo and dangerous conspiracy theories that we are seeing today (not just Q shit but also School Shooting False Flag shit). But there was a big issue I had with “Whisper Down the Lane”. The same grace that is afforded to his mother isn’t REALLY afforded to Richard/Sean. One of the really awful things about Satanic Panic (in a real soup of MANY AWFUL THINGS) is that this strange obsession with Satanists preying upon children in turn led to many children being manipulated to not only tell lies, but also to start believing the lies that some really HORRIFIC things happened to them. While Richard’s/Sean’s actions absolutely fueled what ultimately happens to Mr. Woodhouse, I don’t feel like enough attention and culpability was put upon the adults who fed him that narrative. Sure, that means his Mom, a bit anyway, but what about the authorities? What about the crackpot psychologist who bullies him into lying in the first place (these were the worst parts for me, the transcripts of the interviews)? What about the talk show host who propped him up AS A CHILD as an arbiter or truth and justice and added even more lies into it? While we feel a true amount of anger towards them, I felt that there was definitely too much of Richard blaming himself, with no pushback against that thinking whatsoever. I don’t need a long and winding speech about ‘you were just a child, Sean!’. But I also don’t want to see that perfectly reasonable ‘you were LITERALLY FIVE’ argument be tossed aside as not good enough. It just felt a little too much like ‘and now you’re getting some just desserts’ in a situation where just desserts shouldn’t be sent his way. At least not to the extent they are. And had I not been able to see where this entire thing was going from pretty early on, this may have been a little forgivable. But the mystery itself wasn’t that shocking or surprising. True, some red herrings get thrown in here and there, but they weren’t explored enough to make me feel like they were actual contenders for a solution. In some ways “Whisper Down the Lane” missed the mark for me. It’s very possible it is because this is a topic that really touches a nerve for me, so I don’t necessarily want people to write it off. As an examination the horrible things Satanic Panic did, it’s very effective. I just wish it had been a little more discerning in where to place the lion’s share of blame, because as it it feels more like a morality tale than the multi layered tragedy it could have been.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Kyra Leseberg (Roots & Reads)

    “Imagine a fib you told as a child. A little white lie. Now imagine that lie taking on a life of its own. Imagine having no control over it. If you ever did. Imagine it spreading. Growing. Imagine the consequences of that lie affecting everyone in your life. Imagine it consuming everything around you— your teachers, friends, family—until there’s nobody left. No one to love you. Imagine that lie haunting you for the rest of your life, following you no matter how far you run away from it.” * Whispe “Imagine a fib you told as a child. A little white lie. Now imagine that lie taking on a life of its own. Imagine having no control over it. If you ever did. Imagine it spreading. Growing. Imagine the consequences of that lie affecting everyone in your life. Imagine it consuming everything around you— your teachers, friends, family—until there’s nobody left. No one to love you. Imagine that lie haunting you for the rest of your life, following you no matter how far you run away from it.” * Whisper Down the Lane introduces readers to Richard in the present day and five-year-old Sean in 1980s. Richard is a newlywed enjoying marriage and hopeful of adopting his wife’s young son, Elijah. Life is good in Danvers, Virginia where he teaches art at the elementary school. But then comes the memories of the past pouring back after a class rabbit is found at the school, the victim of a ritualistic killing. Sean is a quiet child who just wants to make his mom happy. She worries so much about bills, raising her son without a father, providing for the two of them. When mom asks Sean about his favorite teacher, a white lie is the match strike that sets the nation ablaze with “Satantic Panic”. The stories of Richard and Sean eventually collide in a heartbreaking turn that leaves readers to consider who the true victims of Satanic Panic were. I was stunned by the adults who had no issue with emotionally coercing children into creating a jaw dropping tale of satanism and pointing the finger at innocent people. These children loved the attention but more than that, they were seeking approval from the adults giving them all of the attention. They would admit/agree to anything to keep their approval! There are two graphic scenes with major trigger warnings of descriptive animal killings. The rest of this horrific story is the truth behind the complexities of communication and putting words into people’s mouths to bring our worst fears to life. It didn’t take long to connect the stories of Richard and Sean and then what was happening to Richard in the present day. I appreciated the author’s take on the 1980s Satanic Panic and how quickly a white lie can unleash devastating consequences. I also appreciated the care given to Richard’s state of mind in the present day. Overall, a strong horror story based on actual events but I saw the twists coming from a mile away. Thanks to Quirk Books and Edelweiss for providing me with a DRC in exchange for my honest review. Whisper Down the Lane is scheduled for release on April 6, 2021. *Quote is from a digital advanced reader’s copy and is subject to change upon final publication. For more reviews, visit www.rootsandreads.wordpress.com

  19. 5 out of 5

    Courtnie Pollard

    TW: Animal cruelty/death; suicide; sexual assault of minors; gore; satanic rituals and symbols. Drawing inspiration from the Satanic Panic of the 1980s and told by using dual timelines and narrators, Whisper Down the Lane is the story of how history can repeat itself and can come back to haunt you. Richard is an art teacher in 2013, who just got married to the love of his life and gained a step-son, and is having strange, yet familiar things happening around him, including a ritualistic murder lef TW: Animal cruelty/death; suicide; sexual assault of minors; gore; satanic rituals and symbols. Drawing inspiration from the Satanic Panic of the 1980s and told by using dual timelines and narrators, Whisper Down the Lane is the story of how history can repeat itself and can come back to haunt you. Richard is an art teacher in 2013, who just got married to the love of his life and gained a step-son, and is having strange, yet familiar things happening around him, including a ritualistic murder left for him to find in the football field of his school. Who is doing this to him, and how do they know so much? Sean is a five year old in 1983 living with his mother after they began a fresh start across the country. One day, at Sean’s new school, accusations against his favorite teacher, Mr. Woodhouse, arise, which then starts a domino effect of paranoia that satanism is everywhere, specifically in schools. Although I was able to figure out the connection between the narrators and who the mastermind(s) behind the plot against Richard was/were, I still found the book very enjoyable and well written (the opening scene had me hooked). I liked being plunged into an era of history I never knew existed. I had no knowledge of the Satanic Panic that occurred in the 1980s or the McMartin Preschool Trial before picking up this book. After finishing the book, I did a bit of research on the actual events in the 1980s and was shocked that the extreme manipulation and the power of suggestion to create false memories in the book were not entirely exaggerated. One thing I did find weird was that pretty much every last name began with a C, but this is an ARC, so it’s quite possible that may be changed in the final published copy. Speaking of, thanks to Quirk Books for providing me a copy of Whisper Down the Lane in exchange for an honest review. Comes out on April 6, 2021.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Andrea

    As a self-proclaimed true crime buff, I knew I needed to read Whisper Down the Lane by Clay McLeod Chapman. The book gives the satanic panic hysteria of the 80s and 90s a 21st century rewrite. In the story, we follow two plotlines: one set in 1983 and one in 2013. The former involves 5-year old Sean and the latter follows adult art teacher, Richard. Chapters move back-and-forth between the two timelines, but the story isn't difficult to follow. In the acknowledgements of the book, the author make As a self-proclaimed true crime buff, I knew I needed to read Whisper Down the Lane by Clay McLeod Chapman. The book gives the satanic panic hysteria of the 80s and 90s a 21st century rewrite. In the story, we follow two plotlines: one set in 1983 and one in 2013. The former involves 5-year old Sean and the latter follows adult art teacher, Richard. Chapters move back-and-forth between the two timelines, but the story isn't difficult to follow. In the acknowledgements of the book, the author makes a comment about it being satanic panic fan-fiction and that's exactly what it reads like. For those of us who lived through the 80s and 90s, the earlier of the two plotlines is eerily familiar, if somewhat exaggerated. Most Gen Xers and elder Millennials will remember stranger danger and the belief that anyone in a van could snatch us at any moment. The lax parenting of the 70s was widely overcompensated for in subsequent decades. This book explores that and the impact the fear of child-snatching satanic cultists had on communities. There's an uncomfortable sense of foreboding woven throughout this novel. I could see where the dual plotlines were headed but I simply couldn't look away. The tense narrative kept me turning pages and staying up past my bedtime to read chapter after chapter. I found the behavior of certain characters to be confusing and infuriating, but I still wanted to see how things would turn out. I would say that this is a successful piece of work and that I enjoyed reading it. I absolutely see myself recommending it to other horror/true crime fan folx like myself. The conclusion of the story required me to suspend my disbelief a little too much, but that didn't detract from my overall enjoyment.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    This book takes tension to a new level. Sean Crenshaw is five years old when he makes up a story to please an adult. Unfortunately, that story is one of ritualistic satanic abuse at the hands of a teacher who in reality was completely innocent. Thirty years later Sean, now Richard, finally has to come to terms with the true extent of the damage he caused both to himself and to others. This is a story of the satanic panic in the 1980's which was a very real event in America where shady psychologis This book takes tension to a new level. Sean Crenshaw is five years old when he makes up a story to please an adult. Unfortunately, that story is one of ritualistic satanic abuse at the hands of a teacher who in reality was completely innocent. Thirty years later Sean, now Richard, finally has to come to terms with the true extent of the damage he caused both to himself and to others. This is a story of the satanic panic in the 1980's which was a very real event in America where shady psychologists, leading questions, and a totally unwarranted faith in memories recovered via hypnosis led to the trials and imprisonment of daycare workers, teachers, and school administrators. This panic turned into a witch hunt of monstrous proportions and spread quickly throughout the nation. The story relayed through the book is both tension-filled and terrifying as panic spreads throughout a community twice -- once in 1983 and once in the present. However, by keeping the anxiety at a high level throughout the entire book the reader is left so breathless by the end that the book ceases to be enjoyable to read.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Karen Bullock

    Spectacular storytelling! Who knew what would unfold within these pages? Was it a horror story with psychological elements? Or something much more? What it appears to be is a small town in Virginia that starts out quaint and turns quickly into chaos. About midway through, the pieces begin to fall into place. Fabulous introduction that leads into both a present & a past history of “make believe” town. Crazy plot twist midway through, and kicks the pace of the story into the “WOW” factor. Horror superbl Spectacular storytelling! Who knew what would unfold within these pages? Was it a horror story with psychological elements? Or something much more? What it appears to be is a small town in Virginia that starts out quaint and turns quickly into chaos. About midway through, the pieces begin to fall into place. Fabulous introduction that leads into both a present & a past history of “make believe” town. Crazy plot twist midway through, and kicks the pace of the story into the “WOW” factor. Horror superbly written, hooks that pull you in to hurry to the finish line of the story. Unsettling scenarios that leave goosebumps on your arms. Extremely clever on author’s part when creating names for detectives; can you see the resemblances? Familiar from character’s in specific movies. A fabulous blend of both horror & a psychological thriller. I received this Arc, in exchange for an honest review.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Octavia (ReadsWithDogs)

    I love when books have an alternating timeline and this one is set in the middle of the 1980's satanic panic period with a kindergarten student and 2013 with an adult art teacher. Sean is the guileless impressionable kindergartner who just wants to make friends and escape his weird mom and Richard is the art teacher who so badly wants to adopt his stepson and fit in to his new community and school. Both are hiding big secrets and it's gave me Chilling Adventures of Sabrina vibes. I do wish there I love when books have an alternating timeline and this one is set in the middle of the 1980's satanic panic period with a kindergarten student and 2013 with an adult art teacher. Sean is the guileless impressionable kindergartner who just wants to make friends and escape his weird mom and Richard is the art teacher who so badly wants to adopt his stepson and fit in to his new community and school. Both are hiding big secrets and it's gave me Chilling Adventures of Sabrina vibes. I do wish there was more about Sean than Richard, because he was more interesting to me and I wanted more satanic panic freakouts. This is the second book I've read by this author and I can say with certainty if you're a fan of Grady Hendrix you'll be a fan of Clay McLeod Chapman. I'll continue picking up this author's books!

  24. 5 out of 5

    Lori Byrd

    Richard / Sean fight for youth vs. grown man demons he has to confront to win his life back. So well written, that you wouldn't even see the incredible ending coming like it does. One of the most powerful books I have read. Touched me deeply. A real standing ovation on this one. Richard / Sean fight for youth vs. grown man demons he has to confront to win his life back. So well written, that you wouldn't even see the incredible ending coming like it does. One of the most powerful books I have read. Touched me deeply. A real standing ovation on this one.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Becky Spratford

    Review in the Feb 15, 2021 issue of Booklist and on the blog: http://raforall.blogspot.com/2021/02/... Three Words That Describe This Book: engaging, intensely unsettling, dual narratives Review in the Feb 15, 2021 issue of Booklist and on the blog: http://raforall.blogspot.com/2021/02/... Three Words That Describe This Book: engaging, intensely unsettling, dual narratives

  26. 5 out of 5

    Josh Keown | Night Terror Novels

    Originally posted over at my personal blog site, Night Terror Novels “He wanted to take it all back. Everything he said to Mr. Yucky and the Bad Snatcher. It felt wrong now, having all these eyes on him.” – Clay McLeod Chapman, Whisper Down the Lane 🏫I received an e-ARC of this story from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a fair review. Whisper Down the Lane (2021) will release on 6th April!🏫 So recently, I finally took the plunge and signed up for NetGalley. I couldn’t really give you an Originally posted over at my personal blog site, Night Terror Novels “He wanted to take it all back. Everything he said to Mr. Yucky and the Bad Snatcher. It felt wrong now, having all these eyes on him.” – Clay McLeod Chapman, Whisper Down the Lane 🏫I received an e-ARC of this story from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a fair review. Whisper Down the Lane (2021) will release on 6th April!🏫 So recently, I finally took the plunge and signed up for NetGalley. I couldn’t really give you an answer as to why I hadn’t up to this point, as it’s such a fantastic way to read exciting new books ahead of their release dates. It had always been on my radar, but I’m glad to finally have caught on to the trend myself and joined. Immediately after signing up, I cast my interest out in a couple of books from authors that I either already loved or had caught my eye in the past. To be honest, I hadn’t actually been expecting to get these ARCs, since my account was so new. So naturally, I was super excited to receive the emails of approval for two of the three I expressed interest in, one of which was this, Clay McLeod Chapman’s upcoming Whisper Down the Lane. This book tells the story of Richard Bellamy, an elementary school art teacher without a past – or rather, one that he’d like to pretend doesn’t exist. Richard has managed to put his history behind him and start a new life in Danvers, Virginia, where he leads a contented existence with his wife Tamara and her son from an earlier relationship, Elijah. Everything is perfect – his new marriage, his first chance at fatherhood, his quaint little job – until the school’s pet rabbit is found ritualistically killed on the school grounds on Richard’s birthday, with a card addressed to him on it’s corpse. What follows is a taut and incredibly tense psychological thriller, as Richard’s past threatens to catch up to him and he wonders who he can truly trust. Whisper Down the Lane’s story is distinctly divided into two main narrative strands; Damned if You Do Sean, which takes place during 1983, and Damned if You Don’t Richard, the ‘present day’, which takes place in 2013. Interestingly, the story also adopts two tenses – Sean’s story is told in a third person past tense, whilst Richard’s is narrated in the first person present. This is a really challenging thing to get right, as alternating tenses and persons can become awfully confusing, but I think the distinctness of the two tales makes it easy to follow, and in the end they link together oh so well. I felt that Richard made for a really interesting and engaging protagonist. Even from the offset, it’s clear that he has more than a few skeletons in his closet, and the way this ties into Sean’s narrative is effectively done. The two strands, which at first seem unrelated, gradually become intricately entwined and woven into one larger picture. Richard has a cynical narration and sense of humour, and it slowly becomes evident that this may be something of a defence mechanism. The other central character is of course Sean, and I thought that his story sections were believable as far as Sean’s age went; the way he acts and reacts to certain things felt authentic and true to how a young boy would. Being familiar with the historical and societal context of the story isn’t a necessity, as Chapman explains it well, but it certainly does enrich the experience, to have even a passing knowledge of America’s ‘Satanic Panic’ that swept the nation during the 1980s, and in particular the McMartin preschool trial case that serves as the main basis for the narrative. You might be inclined to assume that the events depicted in this book could never actually take place, that this sort of manic mass hysteria could never have such a stranglehold over an entire country. But as history proves, it really did. I think this collective madness was presented accurately throughout the book, particularly in the way that it affects the mental state of Sean’s mother in the past section and Richard’s own grip on reality in the present. Speaking of the plot, I thought it was just fantastic. Information was drip-fed throughout, and despite the link between the 1980s narrative and the present one being fairly easy to telegraph early on, the story from then on is a delirious descent into paranoia, and never what I would call predictable. Chapman keeps his cards close to his chest regarding whether there is genuinely any supernatural element to the plot. What I loved most is that the story felt so realistic, like it could just have much been a memoir of one of the children who went through this exact situation during the 1980s. Overall, Whisper Down the Lane succeeds at being a very intense and expertly told chiller – skilfully walking the tightrope between its seemingly supernatural elements and its all too real ones – but it is so much more than that. It’s a story of lies and consequences, of no ‘black and white, right and wrong’, just morals of varying shades of grey. It’s a tale that is scarily still so germane, even today. Obviously the themes in this story might not be to everyone’s tastes, and I think the current spread in reviews and ratings support that. But the thing is, as dark and downbeat as the plot is, it’s also evidence that sometimes the scariest stories of all are those that are all too real. VERDICT: I could talk for ages on the books I really love, those that earn the full five stars from me, but I’ll stop myself there and say that Whisper Down the Lane is simply brilliant start to finish – by turns a thoroughly entertaining, terrifying, and ultimately heart-breaking read. It’s clear that Chapman knows the horror genre inside and out – the myriad references and ‘Easter eggs’ to horror books and films are indicative of that – but as in any truly great work of horror fiction, he understands that the genre is at its very best when infused with real meaning and social commentary. In that regard, Whisper Down the Lane is a true triumph; a gut-wrenching, emotionally devastating, and disturbingly relevant work. It’s a highly deserved full ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐/⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ from this reviewer! I also want to say a humongous thank you to both the author Clay McLeod Chapman, publisher Quirk Books, and to NetGalley, for providing the ARC and giving me the chance to read and review it early. Book Information Title(s): Whisper Down the Lane Author(s): Clay McLeod Chapman Publisher(s): Quirk Books Original Publication Date: 6th April, 2021 Page Count: 336 pages Format Read: Digital Advance Review Copy (Y/N): Y Website(s): https://claymcleodchapman.com/ https://www.quirkbooks.com/#

  27. 5 out of 5

    Tammy

    The nitty-gritty: Meticulously crafted and mind-bendingly creepy, Whisper Down the Lane is a riveting page-turner that's hard to put down. Whisper Down the Lane is an extremely unsettling, paranoia-fueled psychological thriller that takes its ideas from some real life events and twists them into something new and horrifying. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book, but I loved it! This is the second Clay McLeod Chapman book I’ve read, and I’m so impressed by how skillfully he combines multipl The nitty-gritty: Meticulously crafted and mind-bendingly creepy, Whisper Down the Lane is a riveting page-turner that's hard to put down. Whisper Down the Lane is an extremely unsettling, paranoia-fueled psychological thriller that takes its ideas from some real life events and twists them into something new and horrifying. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book, but I loved it! This is the second Clay McLeod Chapman book I’ve read, and I’m so impressed by how skillfully he combines multiple story lines and eventually weaves them all together.  The story alternates between two characters, Richard in 2013 and Sean in 1983. Richard is an art teacher at Danvers school and has recently married a woman named Tamara, another teacher at the same school. Tamara’s five year old son Elijah attends Danvers as well, and Richard is slowly but surely gaining Eli’s trust and hopes to officially adopt him. Richard’s peaceful life is interrupted one day when he discovers the mutilated body of the school’s pet rabbit strewn across the playing field, and even more shocking, there’s a birthday card sticking out of the rabbit’s body addressed to “Sean.” In 1983, we meet five year old Sean, who has recently moved to a small town in Virginia with his mother. Sean understands that his mom is on the run from something, and that’s why they never stay in one place for long. Sean likes his new Kindergarten teacher Mr. Woodhouse, but he doesn’t like the school bully, who corners Sean on the playground and hits him. When Sean’s mom sees the bruises and asks how he got them, Sean decides to tell her a lie. Soon Sean finds himself in the middle of a scandal, which quickly spirals out of control. Six teachers at the school—including Mr. Woodhouse—are being investigated for child abuse and satanic practices, and Sean is forced to answer all sorts of questions that are much too adult for a five-year-old boy. Richard has suppressed certain childhood memories, but suddenly, bits of the past are starting to break through. It’s getting harder and harder to separate the past from the present, and he’s convinced that someone is targeting him and his family. Could history be repeating itself? As Richard spirals into paranoia, the idyllic life he’s built with Tamara and Eli seems to be slipping away. The story is inspired by the McMartin Preschool trial of 1983, where teachers at the school were accused of sexual abuse, although after a lengthy trial, all charges were dropped due to lack of evidence. Chapman takes this idea and runs with it but mixes in some elements from the “Satanic panic” of that same decade, making this a fascinating, multilayered story. While I wouldn’t call this a traditional horror story, there are horrific elements, including a couple of pretty graphic animal deaths, so do beware if that’s a trigger for you. Most of the “horror,” however, was of the psychological variety, and the author did a fantastic job creating a feeling of paranoia as Richard slowly loses touch with reality as more and more weird stuff starts happening to him, and that paranoia rubs off on the reader. Eventually the relationship between Richard and Sean is revealed (you may have guessed it already), and the mystery of what actually happened to Sean and how it connects to the present is what drives the plot. There’s an overall creepy feeling to the story, which doesn’t come from any one thing, but a combination of a bunch of smaller elements. I think some readers are going to find certain parts creepier than others, at least that’s what happened to me. One short scene in particular reminded me of something I haven’t thought of in years: Sean has to go to a home daycare while his mom is working, and his descriptions of Miss Betty and her vegetable sandwiches reminded me of my own unpleasant experience in daycare when I was pretty young. Sometimes stories set in the past evoke nostalgic feelings, but in this book the past is full of ominous overtones. The most horrific thing for me, though, was the way the adults manipulated the children. It starts with a parent, whose response to her child’s complaint “My teacher was mean to me!” balloons into the panicked question “Did your teacher touch you??” The author uses the idea of gossip and whispering to show how quickly rumors can spread (and the book title relates to that as well). It was horrifying to see the leading questions the parents would ask that pushed their kids to fabricate a story that could literally ruin lives. McLeod also intersperses some recorded interviews between Sean and a child “therapist” who literally bullies him into confessing to things that never happened. I was more shocked by these interviews than the animal cruelty, believe it or not. If you’re a horror movie buff, you might recognize some of the characters’ names and other tidbits from such movies as Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist, and I absolutely loved that Chapman included these subtle references in his story. He also does a great job of evoking the time period of the 80s by mentioning things like popular toys (Cabbage Patch Kids) and TV shows (He-Man and the Masters of the Universe ), which seem sweet and innocent, but somehow in Chapman’s hands they take on a sinister tone. In the 2013 timeline, the horrors of Sandy Hook are still fresh in parents’ minds, and the school administration has started doing lock down/active shooter drills. Add in the signs of satanic activity and speculation and you have a bunch of scared, paranoid parents on your hands.  The tension slowly builds as both timelines slowly start to parallel each other, until the shocking conclusion. Clay McLeod Chapman has another winner on his hands with Whisper Down the Lane, and I can’t wait to see what he does next. Big thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy. 

  28. 4 out of 5

    Rachel Bridgeman

    Huge thanks to the awesome Stephen Haskins from Black Crow PR my gifted review copy of 'Whisper Down The Lane' which is published by Quirk on April 6th in hardcover and ebook formats. The horror in this exceptional novel is that of the most human sort- the fallibility of the bodies in which we exist, whilst the battle for our eternal souls is waged on a moral plain influenced by religion, culture and politics, is an ongoing and deadly one. The dual narrative reinforces how the experiences we live Huge thanks to the awesome Stephen Haskins from Black Crow PR my gifted review copy of 'Whisper Down The Lane' which is published by Quirk on April 6th in hardcover and ebook formats. The horror in this exceptional novel is that of the most human sort- the fallibility of the bodies in which we exist, whilst the battle for our eternal souls is waged on a moral plain influenced by religion, culture and politics, is an ongoing and deadly one. The dual narrative reinforces how the experiences we live through as children informs, and burdens, our adult selves-Sean's childhood sections are labelled 'damned if you do' whilst the adult ,Richard, has interwoven parts labelled, 'damned if you don't'.  The play on existential angst, the whole 'speak the truth and shame the devil' has such resonance here, Sean speaks up at his mother's insistence, and Richard keeps quiet because he is removing himself far away from the time when he was Sean. If he never talks about it, did he ever cause a catastrophic set of events that made front page news? If he never opens that box, he can never truly care if the cat inside is in there, dead or alive. The child, Sean, living in a pressure cooker of his mother's hopes and fears, juggling a life which is threadbare at best, broken at worst, falls prey to what I would consider are the real demons of this novel, rumours. I am old enough to remember the lives destroyed by the Cleveland trials, where children were removed from their families and well meaning social workers destroyed an isolated community by believing a half murmured sentence, that was built on by leading questions and escalated into a full blown court case. Irreparable damage has been done in the name of children being led away from dark forces, this can be traced back to Biblical times, the Salem Witch trials, and here,the moral panic of the 1980's. All these have roots in control mechanisms, whereby the 'adults', the controlling forces of the social sector attempt to reign in the young before they have a chance to make their own decision about what is, or isn't evil. Here, the title refers to a game of whispers where it takes a classroom lesson in memory of a whispered sentence travelling from child to child, and transfers it to a half heard child's comment that escalates into a full blown witch hunt against a hapless teacher. In an effort to appease the fearful look on his mother's face, Sean goes along with what she says, and when she tells him this has happened to other children too, in his class, the line between reality and fiction blurs mightily as his tales become increasingly elaborate and satanic in nature. As this pull to bring the youth of the 80's, the young people reaching out and discovering the world for themselves, in line, and also abdicating responsibility for their offspring's sense of dissatisfaction, the satanic panic offers a 'reasonable' response,they weren't 'bad parents', the devil made them, literally, do it. This can be seen reflected in the horror movies, novels, and cultural tropes of the time-have sex in a movie? Die. Drink in a movie? Die. Do something your parents warned you not to do? Die. Literally eviscerated, pulled apart in their dreams, by bogeymen who refuse to die, and are resurrected in sequel after sequel, offering a glimpse of what not to do. The ultimate symbol of capitalism being represented by Patrick Bateman in 'American Psycho', with it's consumerist manifesto manifesting itself in homicidal tendencies. The devil made them do it. And in Richard's life as an adult who has ostensibly made good choices-teacher, married to another teacher, step father-his past is never really far behind him, a fact which is rammed home with an awesome bait and switch start to the novel that had me chortling and gasping. There are brilliantly horrific set pieces that paint a picture of a time which is just waiting for its' next villain to through itself against-Jimmy Savile, Harvey Weinstein, Prince Andrew, all these are the modern day figures who gaslighted an entire world, getting away with truly demonic acts in plain sight. All the while smiling and painting themselves as patrons of a giving, Christian,charitable society, whilst bringing it down behind closed doors. Is Sean guilty, or just a child of a desperate mother? How much of Richard's adult burden is guilt buried deep from his childhood or is a karmic kickback well overdue? I very  much enjoyed the uneasiness, the sense of menace which was so skilfully constructed and well delivered in page after page of narratives which present two sides of the same story. Interwoven with transcripts between childcare professionals and children, asking hideously leading questions, newspaper clippings, letters and testimonies, this book wears its influences proudly and, imho, is a must read for fans of Stephen King and Grady Hendrix. The acts of ordinary people have extraordinary consequences, and the retro feel to the writing feels reflective and also pre-emptive-what will be the next cultural or social figure to be blamed for moral degradation whilst those committing the real crimes could be as close to our children as over a white , picket fence?

  29. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Wolf

    If you’re of a certain age, you remember hearing about the McMartin preschool scandal of the 1980s, in which the staff of a family-run preschool was accused of hundreds of counts of abuse and of participating in Satanic rituals with the children in their care. It was horrifying, gross… and untrue. All of the accused were acquitted… but do we remember the acquittals? Or do we remember the accusations? I think the answer is self-evident. In Whisper Down the Lane, Richard is an elementary school art If you’re of a certain age, you remember hearing about the McMartin preschool scandal of the 1980s, in which the staff of a family-run preschool was accused of hundreds of counts of abuse and of participating in Satanic rituals with the children in their care. It was horrifying, gross… and untrue. All of the accused were acquitted… but do we remember the acquittals? Or do we remember the accusations? I think the answer is self-evident. In Whisper Down the Lane, Richard is an elementary school art teacher, newly married to another teacher, and hoping to adopt the stepson who’s also one of his students. Richard comes across as kind but a little odd when we first meet him, with his mind often wandering away, not really fond of small talk or collegial chitchat with coworkers. Richard is also Sean, but his memories of being Sean have been repressed down to nothingness. As Sean, at age five, he first confirmed his worried mother’s suspicions about his kindly kindergarten teacher, and eventually became the star witness in the hugely publicized case against several teachers accused of horrifying abuse and Satanic practices. And as in real-life, the case eventually fell apart, but the damage done to those accused was indelible. Richard’s memories of Sean start creeping back after some weird, unexplainable incidents begin to occur around him, starting with an eviscerated bunny on the school field and escalating from there. Finally, as Richard himself faces accusations of abuse, we readers have to wonder whether the tightly sealed borders between Richard and Sean have finally eroded enough to push Richard over the edge into madness and unspeakable acts. There is a lot going on here, and plenty to challenge and disgust the book’s readers. As the Sean pieces of the narrative make clear, the children who provided witness testimony during the Satanic panic were pushed and manipulated by the adults in their lives — parents, police, and psychologists — to deliver the answers the adults were looking for. The author skillfully places us inside Sean’s mind, so we can see how his desire to please his mother led to statements later used to condemn his teacher in the court of public opinion. It’s horrible, pure and simple, to see the lives destroyed, and equally horrible to see how these young children were introduced to topics well beyond their ability to digest, being spoon-fed details that led them to confirm drug-fueled orgies, sacrifices, graveyard rituals, and more. As Richard’s memories intrude into his daily life, he does act in ways that would appear crazy and even dangerous to those around him. As I read the book, I couldn’t see how there could possibly be another answer but that Richard had had a breakdown and was actually responsible for the events happening around him… and I won’t say whether I was right or wrong! I did go into Whisper Down the Lane expecting a horror story, and while there are elements that shade in that direction, this book is more a story of psychological terror than out-and-out horror. I thought the ending was clever and surprising, and I did not see it coming. That said, because I expected horror, I felt a little let down by parts of the story and the solutions to the central mysteries, but that may be due more to the marketing and positioning of the book than any fault of the book itself. Certainly, Whisper Down the Lane is a fast, compelling read. Once I got started, I just could not stop. The jumps back and forth between Sean and Richard are so disturbing, and the recounting of the Satanic abuse case and Sean’s role in it is truly awful to read about — even more so knowing it’s based on real cases from the 1980s. Whisper Down the Lane is a creepy tale that’s impossible to put down or stop thinking about. Be prepared for a dark, sleep-interrupting read. Highly recommended, but not if you’re looking for light entertainment! Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley. Full review at my link text.

  30. 4 out of 5

    David Harris

    I'm grateful to the publisher and to Stephen and Jamie at Black Crow PR for an ARC of Whisper Down the Lane to consider for review, and for inviting me to take part in the book's blogtour. 1983. Five year old Sean is an outsider, a scholarship boy with a single (and hard-up) mother. Bullied at school, he's anxious to please, desperate in fact to work out what the adults want of him and to give it to them. No match for a manipulative storm of accusations, quack therapists and - as is soon clear - I'm grateful to the publisher and to Stephen and Jamie at Black Crow PR for an ARC of Whisper Down the Lane to consider for review, and for inviting me to take part in the book's blogtour. 1983. Five year old Sean is an outsider, a scholarship boy with a single (and hard-up) mother. Bullied at school, he's anxious to please, desperate in fact to work out what the adults want of him and to give it to them. No match for a manipulative storm of accusations, quack therapists and - as is soon clear - self-righteous witch hunters wedded to increasingly bizarre and heinous conspiracy theories. Sean's compliance with all this will destroy his world, consume the innocent and mark him for life. 2013. Elementary school art teacher Richard has married "office Goth" Tamara and is on course to adopt her son, Eli. Then a horrible crime is committed, and he begins to feel targeted by someone who knows far more than they ought to about his past. Increasingly paranoid, Richard sees things go from bad to worse and realises that events are repeating themselves. I should start this review with a warning - the book features a couple of nasty instances of cruelty to animals, one of them right at the beginning. It introduces the reader to a series of events I was unfamiliar with - a moral panic in the early 80s USA when accusations of improbable and bizarre ritual practices were levelled at respectable members of the community . Stirred up by dubious therapists and members of fringe quasi Christian organisations, a feverish atmosphere of conspiracy built up. I would like to say this was a one-off, but it's clear from history (and more recent events) that apparently rational people can be moved to such nonsense when the conditions are right. In transcripts of interviews with the young boy Sean, we see how suggestions are planted and how a lonely and confused boy is made to support pretty much whatever his interrogator wishes. And we see tragic consequences from that. Cutting between 1983 and 2013, we also see Richard, who has rebuilt his life and erased Sean, being reminded - as he goes about his daily business with Eli, Tamara and the kids in his class - of what happened before. It's very subtlely done, with the reader unclear whether some of the events might be coincidences that Richard's working into a pattern; whether he might be being targeted (but how and by whom?), whether he is, in those moments of "vacancy", himself acting out what Sean claimed to have seen, whether there is a real element of the supernatural here - or whether something else altogether is going on. There are also hints that the febrile atmosphere of the 80s could return (the school renaming Hallowe'en "Character Day", for example) and social tensions: Danvers is rapidly gentrifying, with a consciously hip demographic moving in, but some of the residents are still "old Danvers", liable to be swayed by anti gun-control conspiracy theories - and Tamara must be careful to keep her tattoos hidden from both pupils and the Principal. And over all, a profound sense of unease, of his personality having been wounded and not healed after being forced to bear the responsibility for the consequences of things done by adults. I actually got angry at what had happened to Sean (as well as to others here). W B Yeat's poem "The Second Coming" is often quoted in connection with the working out of the perplexing and frightening events of the modern age and two verses in particular are well known - "Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world" For me, though, it's the following words which chime perfectly with the atmosphere of Whisper Down the Lane "The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere The ceremony of innocence is drowned" The book seems to me to, scarily and perfectly, capture the childish (ie immature, self-indulgent and shallow) as opposed to child-like (innocent, accepting and open) behaviour of certain adults who, unempathatic and lacking self-knowledge, refuse to shoulder their own responsibilities or to truly protect those for whom they are responsible. That makes Whisper Down the Lane a hard read, at times. There were points when I had to stop to gather myself before reading what I feared might come next. Clay McLeod Chapman does though draw the reader in and there was no way that I could not go on with this book, to discover whether Sean - and Richard - would eventually find peace with themselves. It's traumatic at times but I would strongly recommend.

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