Alone in the world, Elspeth Swansome has taken the position of nanny to a family on the remote Scottish island of Skelthsea.

Her charge, Mary, is a troubled child. Distracted and secretive, she hasn’t uttered a word since the sudden death of her twin, William – just days after their former nanny disappeared.

With Mary defiantly silent, Elspeth turns to the islanders. But no one will speak of what happened to William. Just as no one can explain the hypnotic lullabies sung in empty corridors. Nor the strange dolls that appear in abandoned rooms.

Nor the faint whistling that comes in the night . . .

As winter draws in and passage to the mainland becomes impossible, Elspeth finds herself trapped.

But is this house haunted by the ghosts of the past?


My Review

Following the deaths of both her father and her beloved sister Clara, 24-year-old Elspeth Swansome leaves her life in Edinburgh to take up a position as nanny to nine-year-old Mary on the windswept, remote Scottish island of Skelthsea. A withdrawn, silent child, Mary has lost both her parents and then her twin brother William died just days after her nanny Hettie disappeared without telling anyone she was leaving.

Mary is being cared for and educated by her aunt Miss Gillies. But there is no affection there and poor Mary is starved of love and emotional support. Hopefully Elspeth will be able to help her to overcome her grief and start to speak again.

The Whistling is a classic, Gothic ghost story and I loved every minute. We’ve read this story many times – new nanny has charge of quiet child in a sinister house full of secrets, strange noises, shadowy figures and possible hauntings – but it never fails to chill. Who is standing in the attic window at night, lit only by a candle and who is humming a haunting lullaby outside Elspeth’s bedroom door? What is that faint whistling sound carried on the wind? And what is the meaning of the pebbles, and the dolls without faces, bound in human hair. The fear is stealth-like, creeping up on you, minute by minute, night after night.

“Iskar itself seemed to watch me from its shadows, seemed imbued with death and all that was wicked,” says Elspeth.

It’s a slow burn of a read, unworldly, spooky and full of creepy characters, both seen and unseen. Do you believe in ghosts? Elspeth is far too sensible, her father told her there were no such things, but anyone can be pushed to the limit by fear.

Many thanks to NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

About the Author

Rebecca Netley grew up as part of an eccentric family in a house full of books and music and these things have fed her passions. Family and writing remain at the heart of Rebecca’s life. She lives in the UK with her husband, sons and an over-enthusiastic dog, who gives her writing tips.

1 Comment on “The Whistling by Rebecca Netley

  1. Pingback: My Top 8 Books of 2021 – part three – Bookchatter@Cookiebiscuit

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