Book Review – Whistle In The Dark

Whistle In The Dark
Emma Healey
Penguin Books
Rating: ***

Jen and Hugh Maddox have just survived every parent’s worst nightmare. 
Relieved, but still terrified, they sit by the hospital bedside of their fifteen-year-old daughter, Lana who was found bloodied, bruised and disorientated after going missing for four days during a mother daughter vacation in the country. As Lana lies mute in the bed, unwilling or unable to articulate what happened to her during that period, the national media speculates wildly and Jen and Hugh try to answer many questions. Where was Lana? How did she get hurt? Was the teenage boy who befriended her involved? How did she survive outside for all those days? Even when she returns to the family home and her school routine, Lana only provides the same frustrating answer over and over “I can’t remember.”


I was really excited for Emma Healey to bring out a new book after absolutely loving her other novel, Elizabeth Is Missing. Healey writes what I would call modern day mysteries with a twist and Whistle in the Dark was under this category as well.

The mystery of this book is about a mother, Jen and her daughter Lana go on a group holiday together. One day Lana goes missing and no one knows where she is. Lana gets found but has no memory of what happened to her or where she went. As a mother Jen wants answers, she wants to know who, what, where, when, why. But Lana knows nothing. So Jen’s paranoia escalates and escalates throughout the book, constantly checking up on her daughter, her social media, her where abouts in case she goes missing again.

What was interesting about this book was that you only hear from Jen’s perspective, her thoughts and ideas her paranoia and opinions. You are really stuck inside a confused, hurt, upset mother’s mind. I ended up finding her constant questioning and checking up on her daughter frustrating and annoying. Why wouldn’t she just leave her alone, clearly her daughter is just traumatised and badgering her won’t let her remember what happened. I found Jen and Lana’s relationship difficult to read. Jen wanted the best for her daughter you could tell that but she just couldn’t let go of what happened to her. I guess not being a mother myself maybe I can’t understand this. That’s why I found their relationship an interesting read, to be in the mother’s mind.

Unfortunately I did not like this book as much as Elizabeth Is Missing. I found that the story line seemed to drag and I wasn’t very fond of the characters. I really loved the Dad, he was so funny and much more relaxed than Jen. He was calm and understood what Lana wanted and felt like a more balanced and grounded parent. His calm nature made Jen just seem even more delusional.

The ending I felt was a slight disappointment. I don’t want to give it away but where Lana went probably would of been searched if there was a real rescue mission going on and because of Lana’s mental health I kind of figured the ending. However I did enjoy parts and I was hooked I wanted to know why just as much as Jen did. Although this book is about the mystery of Lana’s disappearance it is very much a family drama, the insights to an inner workings of a family in a distressing time, how they cope, react with each other.

This book made me quite sad and it was quite a slow read but there were very beautiful moments, explanations from Lana about how depression feels was melancholy but explained delicately and with respect. If you have never read Emma Healey before I would highly recommend Elizabeth is Missing, this book has it’s lovely moments but it just didn’t feel as powerful as her other novel. 

Has anyone else read this? What were your thoughts? Katie x

2 thoughts on “Book Review – Whistle In The Dark

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s