Ever since Gillian Flynn’s bestselling Gone Girl, the words ‘psychological thriller’ have loomed large in writers’ minds. Emma Healey’s new book, Whistle in the Dark, fulfils the brief, but with an interesting twist. While Gone Girl was brilliant, but also nasty and fantastical, Healey’s book takes us into the world of a family we recognise. This is ordinary life gone wrong – a hell, in other words, to which we can relate.
At the beginning, Jen and Hugh’s fifteen-year-old daughter, Lana, is in the news. On an ‘art holiday’ with Jen in the Peak District, she goes missing for four days, before being found in the countryside, her sweater matted with blood, a gash on her scalp, strange marks on her ankles and her clothing wet, although it hasn’t rained. What happened in that time? ‘Nothing,’ she says to the police and her parents.
Before Lana went missing, she’d been depressed and was self-harming. Jen needs to know what went on so she can understand her daughter’s situation now. She suspects two people from the art group: Matthew, a boy who was keen on Lana and also went missing for hours the