Kate’s Review: “The Whispering Dead”

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Book: “The Whispering Dead (Gravekeeper #1)” by Darcy Coates

Publishing Info: Poisoned Pen Press, May 2021

Where Did I Get This Book: I received a paperback copy from the publisher.

Where You Can Get This Book: WorldCat | Amazon | Indiebound

Book Description: Homeless, hunted, and desperate to escape a bitter storm, Keira takes refuge in an abandoned groundskeeper’s cottage. Her new home is tucked away at the edge of a cemetery, surrounded on all sides by gravestones: some recent, some hundreds of years old, all suffering from neglect.

And in the darkness, she can hear the unquiet dead whispering.

The cemetery is alive with faint, spectral shapes, led by a woman who died before her time… and Keira, the only person who can see her, has become her new target. Determined to help put the ghost to rest, Keira digs into the spirit’s past life with the help of unlikely new friends, and discovers a history of deception, ill-fated love, and murder.

But the past is not as simple as it seems, and Keira’s time is running out. Tangled in a dangerous web, she has to find a way to free the spirit… even if it means offering her own life in return.

Review: Thank you to Poisoned Pen Press for sending me a copy of this novel!

Up until this point I had read two Darcy Coates novels, both of which were SUPER scary and unrelenting in their horror themes. So when Poisoned Pen Press approached me asking if I was interested in reading more of her work, I leaped at the chance to do so. So for the next few weeks I am going to read and review her “Gravekeeper” Series, which involve a young woman named Keira, who wakes up in a strange cemetery with no memory of who she is, and realizes that she can see ghosts. The first in the series is “The Whispering Dead”, and while I thought I knew what to expect from Coates, it caught me off guard with a difference in tone and imagery. And this is overall a good thing.

Being the first in the series, “The Whispering Dead” has to set the stage, and I thought that it did, for the most part. I did enjoy the ghostly heart of the story, as well as the mystery of why Keira is seeing the ghost of a forlorn woman that wanders the cemetery grounds she is now calling home, AND the mystery of who she is given her lack of memories before waking up in said cemetery. I’m so used to Coates having really scary moments in her books, so the more dark fantasy vibe of this one was a surprise, though it was definitely a welcome one. While there are certainly creepy and spooky moments, be it ghosts wandering a cemetery and looking through windows, or building suspense in seemingly abandoned buildings and landscapes, Coates has some horror-esque elements that are pretty accessible to not just die hard horror fans, but also those who may like ghost stories but perhaps not the really scary stuff that can come with it. I was pretty invested in the reasons as to why Keira can see ghosts, and why there is a specific ghost that keeps popping up and how that ties to the town’s history. I am also interested in just what the deal is with Keira’s memory loss, and who she was before she suddenly woke up with no recollections of who she is. This book lays a lot of groundwork, and my guess is that it’s going to be a multi-book arc.

And I also mostly liked the characters at hand. I’ve seen this series compared to the “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” Scooby Gang as well as other horror/dark fantasy friend groups, and I think it’s pretty accurate. Keira is a good leader/protagonist, and I also like seeing her growing friendships with med student Mason (who may also be a romantic interest? I’m on board!), and with Pastor Adage, who has let her take up residence in the abandoned cemetery groundskeeper cottage. There is also weirdo Goth girl Zoe, who I am warming up to for the most part, but the problem is that she is VERY much a conspiracy theorist and while I know it’s supposed to be kooky and charming, these days conspiracy theorists generally leave a bad taste in my mouth due to the Q stuff and a lot of the racist and anti-Semitic building blocks that create a lot of conspiracies. I don’t think Zoe is that at all! But it just feels a bit uncomfortable. OH, and there is also a cat named Daisy, and we all know how much I love a feline companion. Overall it’s a well rounded cast that complements the tone of the story, and I think it’s charming.

I will be going forth in the series, with “The Ravenous Dead” up next week. I am eager to see what more Keira finds out about her mysterious past, and what ghosts are in store for her visions and second sight. “The Whispering Dead” is a good start to a series I look forward to continuing!

Rating 7: A spooky set up to a series with a quirky cast of characters, “The Whispering Dead” is some horror lite and perfect for people who want to explore Darcy Coates without being scared out of their minds!

Reader’s Advisory:

“The Whispering Dead” is included on the Goodreads lists “2021 Horror Novels Written by Women and Non-Binary Femmes”, and “Bring On the Creepy!”.

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