Pan, out 8 May
A haunted house tale with a nasty twist.
The Voices is F.R. Tallis’ third outing under this name; he’s also written a number of books under the name Frank Tallis. As with his previous novel, The Sleep Room, The Voices is essentially a haunted house story, set in that long, hot summer of 1976. The protagonist, Christopher Norton, is a composer of film scores who misses the fame he enjoyed earlier in his career, when he was considered a ‘serious musician.’ Together with his pregnant ex-model wife, Laura, he purchases a large, dilapidated house in Hampstead’s ‘Vale of Health’, insisting on the property being renovated before they move in – said renovation to include a purpose-built studio for him on the top floor. By the time they do take up residence, the baby – a daughter, Faye – is several months old.
Things soon start to go wrong, though. Laura hears noises on the baby monitor, and – although he dismisses any suggestion of a supernatural cause for this – Christopher becomes interested in the subject of Electronic Voice Phenomena, or EVP. He starts to experiment with this in his studio, with some startling results – and suddenly he has an idea for his first ‘serious’ piece of music in ten years, which will incorporate EVP, and one voice in particular that seems to be growing stronger. Meanwhile Laura is starting to question everything about her life, and her relationship – her anger building at Chris’ lack of belief, or willingness to take her seriously. The noises escalate to the point where neither Chris nor Laura can ignore things any more, and the finale of the novel leads to a horrific discovery.
F.R. Tallis has a background in clinical psychology, which informs his writing. The story progresses well, if a tad predictably, but the male characters lose an element of likeability as they display very old-fashioned attitudes towards women. In this, as with the narrative as a whole, Tallis has produced an accurate portrayal of the Seventies, it’s just a shame that this lack of likeability hampers an otherwise involving tale.
A story that will satisfy fans of haunted house stories; an intriguing story with a dark twist in the tale. 6/10