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From a Whisper to a Scream (thoughts)

January 29, 2009

From a Whisper to a ScreamAs much as I love challenges, sometimes it’s delicious to just ignore all of those books and grab something just because. :) I first discovered Charles de Lint a couple years ago, when I read Widdershins-one of the latest of his Newford books (Newford is a made-up city that provides the common setting for them all). Since then, I’ve been slowly reading the Newford books in the order suggested by his website. So that’s how I came to check From a Whisper to a Scream out from the library.

This book was originally published under a pseudonym-Samuel M. Key. de Lint explains in his preface that he did so not to keep it a secret, but to distinguish his darker novels for readers. Also in the preface, he said that this was “the first full-length Newford novel.” (Before it came a short story collection and novella.) I was more than a little curious to see what a self-described de Lint horror novel would be like…and for those who have hesitated to read, let me re-assure you that it still reads like de Lint. There are still people who have to confront things from their past, Newford is still a magical place, and the culture of itinerant musicians and waifs is still a big part of the book.

What’s different, for me, was the level of darkness; while other Newford characters come from abusive backgrounds, in this book a child molester is front and center. And not only that, but small sections of the book are told from his point of view; those chapters were very disturbing but fortunately short. And the rest of the book is filled with strong, good people trying to do the right thing, so I’d still recommend this one. I didn’t find it particularly scary, but then it’s difficult for books to really frighten me.

A brief plot summary, so you get an idea of the ‘horror’ involved (the summary on the back cover is just wrong, lol). In 1988, Native American cop Thomas Morningstar ends up shooting and killing Teddy Bird while conducting a routine traffic stop; when they search Bird’s trunk, they find three children’s bodies. Two years later, the police are stymied by a series of brutal murders taking place in the sketchy side of Newford. Not only are there no clues, but each victim shows signs that the perpetrator is getting stronger and stronger. The case draws together a group of disparate people, including Morningstar and his brother (future chief of the tribe), newspaper photographer Jim McGann, teenage runaway Chelsea, and Papa Jo-el, a voodoo priest. And as it becomes more clear that the murderer has supernatural powers, they must figure out how to battle an evil from beyond the grave. (See-that’s what they should have put on the back cover; it’ll draw people in.)

I loved this book for the two reasons I love all of the de Lint I’ve read so far: the characters and a feeling of spirituality and magic that just pervades the book. The characters are the kind of arty, edgy cool people who you desperately want to be friends with but feel they’re so much better than you. Or maybe that’s just me. ;) Anyway, within just a few chapters I cared deeply about the characters, so I had to keep reading to find out what happened to them. Isn’t that the mark of a great book?

And while this book doesn’t have faeries, which seem to be the hallmark of urban fantasy, it does include both Native American and voodoo beliefs, as well as of course a malevolent ghost. And there’s a definite sense of good vs. evil in the book, which I think is interesting in today’s grey-loving society.

I’m not selling this one too well, am I? But despite the at-times horrific subject matter, I loved reading this book, and I wish it had been about a hundred pages longer. Definitely one to try out. However, if you haven’t read any Charles de Lint before, may I suggest starting with The Little Country? It’s a standalone novel, and it’s just perfect.

19 Comments leave one →
  1. January 29, 2009 11:21 am

    I wholeheartedly understand about challenges sometimes burning you out. I find that the books I’ve been reading for my own personal challenge have not been as zingy (? I’m not sure what I’m going for with that adjective!) as books I just pick up on a total whim. I suppose there’s always a little bit of the sense in the back of my mind that I’m not controlling my reading list, which might contribute to this ennui. Of course, if you’re doing one of those challenges where you pick the books rather than them being set from the get-go, you probably don’t feel as bogged down!

  2. January 29, 2009 12:50 pm

    I am so scared. I will read this thing…but I am sscared

  3. January 29, 2009 2:49 pm

    Charles de Lint is one of my favorites!! I was hooked when I read The Little Country….but Memory and Dream was one of the best books I’ve ever read!! LOVED it!!

    I have this one on my pile somewhere…I really need to make time for it!

  4. January 29, 2009 3:59 pm

    I have yet to try de Lint, but he shows up on SO MANY readers’ favorites lists! It’s crazy. I’ll check into The Little Country.

  5. January 29, 2009 6:04 pm

    I’ve never read anything by de Lint. You make his books sound intriguing so I’m going to take you up on your suggestion and make sure that I read The Little Country this year!!!

  6. January 29, 2009 10:34 pm

    Sounds very cool. The only Samuel Key book I’ve read so far is I’ll be Watching You which was good but certainly the weakest of the books I’ve read by him so far. It’ s also a book that’s set in Newford but this one has absolutely nothing supernatural about it. This one sounds much better! I have The Little Country still sitting on my TBR shelf. I still haven’t read it!

  7. January 30, 2009 6:56 am

    Sounds great. I have a couple of de Lint’s waiting to be read this year. Thanks for the link to the recommended reading order too!

  8. January 30, 2009 7:13 am

    I’ve never read anything by de Lint so I’ll take your advice and try your suggestion. This does sound interesting as well though :)

  9. stacybuckeye permalink
    January 30, 2009 8:48 am

    I’ve never tried DeLint, but you make him sound so tempting!

  10. January 30, 2009 12:35 pm

    Thanks for the link to the list from de Lint’s website. I’ve read a couple of the books set in Newford as well as Little Grrl Lost, but I know I’m reading them out of order. Maybe I can get on the right track now!

  11. January 30, 2009 6:27 pm

    I’m always getting behind on challenges and stuff because I stray from all those books all the time! It can’t be helped :)

    Anyway, great review and one of these days I will read a de Lint book!

  12. January 31, 2009 8:19 am

    This guy keeps popping up on the blogs these days. I’m going to have to give him a try.

  13. January 31, 2009 8:01 pm

    Steph, I like the mix of list books and whim ones! But I think there definitely needs to be a balance. :)

    Raych, I’m curious to see if it scares you!

    Stephanie, I haven’t read Memory and Dream yet, but I’m almost to it on the list. :)

    Andi, it’s so good!!

    Staci, awesome-I hope you read The Little Country. :D

    Chris, isn’t it sad how books languish on the TBR shelf?! But you should read that one pretty soon!

    Mariel, no problem. I love lists, so I did a google search when I first started reading de Lint. :)

    Samantha, great! Feel free to read this one first!

    Stacy, I try to make my favourite authors sound as tempting as possible. hehe

    Jessica, the first de Lint I read was The Onion Girl, which is almost the last in the Newford series. Whoops!

    Iliana, glad I’m not the only one straying!

    CB, I really like him. :D

  14. January 31, 2009 11:53 pm

    I’d like read this one. I do love deLint. And I second your recommendation: The Little Country is a perfect book to start with. I need to reread it, myself!

  15. February 3, 2009 5:13 am

    Thanks for the review. I love what I have read of De Lint but have not yet tried any of his horror stuff (mostly Newfod and colletions). Will keep my fingers crossed for an RIP challenge later this year for a great excuse to pick it up (as if I need one really!).


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