REVIEW: THE ORPHAN CHOIR, BY SOPHIE HANNAH

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The sound is loud, coming from the next-door neighbor’s house, and it has jolted Louise Beeston right out of her sleep. It is Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now,” and it is the song that usually starts it all. The weekend music blasting cruelly into her bedroom. No matter how many times she has politely requested that the neighbor, Justin Clay, please turn it down.

Her husband Stuart is nonchalant. He is not even pretending to be supportive. In fact, the noise doesn’t really bother him. He can sleep through anything.

So begins the saga of the noise nuisance that will drive Louise to take drastic steps. But more will transpire before that happens. Louise will call the police, who will refer her to environmental health. A report will be made. And steps will be taken. Or so she believes.

Meanwhile, as time passes, something changes. The music is now that of choir boys singing, and it appears at odd times. And there is no way to prove the sounds are even occurring, as nobody else hears them.

The Orphan Choir is a disturbing story of what happens when one woman desperately misses her seven-year-old son, Joseph, who is a boarder at Saviour College, run by a Dr. Freeman. The story is a mix of madness, despair, and ghostly warnings. Even as I kept imagining one scenario, another would appear. I thought I would discover that the husband and Dr. Freeman were playing cruel tricks on Louise. But I was wrong.

What does Louise do to try to escape the noise pollution next door? How will her new second home at Swallowfield give her the peace she desires? Why does she suddenly realize that the noise is not the issue, but that more is going on, and that there will be no peace to be found anywhere? A surreal set of events unfold, and finally, at the very end, we realize what has transpired. 4 stars.

REVIEW: THE BONES OF YOU, BY DEBBIE HOWELLS

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In a small English village, a young girl has gone missing. Rosie Anderson’s eighteen years flash before her eyes, as she looks down upon the life she lost; she describes this “movie of her life” as she sees it, in freeze frame images, starting in her childhood. Her voice is the first one we hear, and we will see her alternately reveal much as the story continues.

Our story then picks up with our narrator, Kate McKay, a friend of the Anderson family. Neal and Jo are Rosie’s parents, and Kate has just learned from Jo that Rosie has gone missing. Kate’s daughter Grace is distraught at the news of Rosie’s disappearance, and in the early days of August, there is still hope that she will be found. Or that they will all discover that Rosie has just gone off with a friend and no harm has come to her. After all, Rosie is not known for rebellious streaks.

Neal Anderson is a renowned journalist, charming, and many are in awe of him. His wife Jo is gorgeous and their home is perfect. Everything seems perfect. As we know in life, nothing is perfect.

And as “The Bones of You” unfolds, we learn that nothing is as it seems, and darkness lies beneath the surface. Abuse, dangerous passions, and perhaps even murderous impulses. Who can know what such people are capable of…what secrets might hide beneath the polished veneer? And why is Delphine, the youngest daughter, seemingly ignored? What secrets might she be hiding?

We see the layers of this dark, psychological suspense unpeeling slowly, and meet others in the village, like Rachael, a friend of Kate’s, and Angus, Kate’s husband. Laura is a journalist friend of Kate’s who appears after Rosie’s body is found and the determination has been made that she was murdered.

Kate was close to Rosie, who enjoyed coming over to spend time with the horses. Kate is an earthy character, a gardener, while Jo is distant, seemingly superficial, and unpredictable in her moods. She is often aloof, and then needy. Who can tell what is really going on in her perfect world, now destroyed by her daughter’s death?

There is a slow build of suspense and gradual revelations, both from Rosie’s perspective, and then through bits and pieces from others. What happened to Rosie? Could her boyfriend Alex, whom the parents disapproved of, be responsible? Or could her murderer be someone even closer?

A chilling story that kept me rapidly turning pages, figuring out some of it fairly early, but then stunned by what is finally revealed. And we see how a moral compass was lost, a brain short-circuited, and someone slipped into madness. How what we see in others often hides the truth and we may never know what that is. Until someone finds the courage to step forward. 4.5 stars.

**This e-Arc was received from the publisher via NetGalley.