The Bookworm Sez: Hear the music in 'The Orphan Choir'

The Bookworm Sez: Hear the music in ‘The Orphan Choir’

Your neighbor loves heavy rock and roll.

He has all the CDs of all the major metal bands. It’s impressive, really, the determination he used to find them, starting with the earliest and the heaviest. He listens to them every weekend. Over and over, loudly.

Which would be nice, except you hate heavy metal.

So, aside from buying a boxful of earplugs, what can you do about a noisy neighbor? You could move, of course, but as you’ll see in “The Orphan Choir” by Sophie Hannah (c.2014, Picador, $25, 277 pages), sometimes that doesn’t even help …

It didn’t happen every night — or every weekend, for that matter. But it happened often enough for Louise Beeston to become a bit unhinged over the loud music that her neighbor, Justin Clay, spewed from his stereo.

In the several times that Louise had complained, Clay was polite, but she could see that he was as annoyed at her as she was at him. Stuart, Louise’s husband, didn’t seem to be bothered by the din, so he was no help at all. And though it pained Louise that he was gone, she considered it a minor blessing that her 7-year-old son Joseph was away at Saviour College on choir scholarship. He’d never have to endure the noise.

No, the cacophony irritated Louise the most and it only got worse. Not only did Clay start blasting music more frequently, but he upped the battle by playing choir music: the kind that Joseph sang at Saviour College! Clay must’ve known how Louise was suffering over Joseph’s absence. It was surely some sort of torture.

To escape this awful neighbor, Louise convinced Stuart that they needed a second home in an exclusive enclave where privacy, neatness, and silence were valued above all. It would be a lovely weekend retreat for their family, a perfect spot to bring Joseph when he was on holiday. It would be quiet.

But then, Louise started hearing the choir again. She began to think that maybe the singing was all in her head. It got louder when she thought about Joseph’s choir director, whom she hated.

It started following her when she was outside, in the nearby forest.

It got terrifying when she began to see faces …

Every now and then, having a little scare is good but you don’t want it to keep you up all night. That’s when you want “The Orphan Choir” at your bedside.

Is Louise insane? That’s what author Sophie Hannah spurs her readers to ask, and it’s a valid question. Through pages and pages of fussiness, we’re shown that Louise is fretful and difficult, prone to excitability and bordering on hysterical (in a bad way). She’s not someone you’d want to know; in fact, eventually, you’ll want to roll your eyes at cranky Louise — which is about when Hannah cranks up the suspense.

Though I thought this book was overly-wordy at times, its gentle shivers make it worth a peek if you want something Scary Lite. Read “The Orphan Choir,” and the only sound you’ll hear is “Eeeeeeeeek.”

The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. Email her at bookwormsez@yahoo.com.

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