The Murmurs

Written by Michael J Malone

Review written by P. D. Viner

P.D. Viner is a crime writer and film maker. Baker and coffee fiend. Course director of the Goldsboro Writing Academy.

The Murmurs
Orenda Books
RRP: £9.99
Released: September 14, 2023

The story starts in 1818, when a curse is laid, which leads all the way through to now, via then. It’s the story of Annie and her brother Lewis, who have been raised by their father’s best friend and his wife, after both their parents died — the mother in an accident that almost killed Annie, and the father from a broken heart only months later.

The accident that took their mother also took Annie’s memory and the uncanny ability, she had just started to develop, to see if someone was soon to die. But now, some 15 or so years later, Annie is starting work at a care home, and she sees a patient she knows will have a fatal stroke very soon. She knows that, because she sees his face melt into a skull and inside her head the Murmurs start.

From there the novel develops slowly, taking time to develop the back story to Annie’s family and the town they grew up in, Mossgow in the Highlands. It’s a small town dominated by the church and its creepy Pastor. It also takes you back to the origins of the curse and the history of Witchcraft in Scotland, even with mentions of James I (VI of Scotland) and his book on Daemonology.

In the present Annie can’t stay in her job (too many melting skulls) and sees a TV news story about a girl missing for 15 years. That triggers a memory of the girl and a red car… Annie had seen the girl die, at least in her own mind. It had been the first instance, way back then, of The Murmurs. And now, after all this time, they are striking her with such an intensity she fears she could be driven mad. She and Lewis come to understand that Annie would not be the first in her family to be driven insane by the voices.  The Murmurs have been passed down through their family, and it is the curse laid on them in 1818. The terrible fear of Annie having the curse may have been the reason her mother died.  

The Murmurs is a supernatural mystery that combines family history, cursed women, burned witches, unhappy love, mental illness and murder. An intriguing novel, a mix of mystery, crime and folk horror that took me back to some of the after-school TV pleasures of my youth; a touch of The Omega Factor with a sprinkling of Children of the Stones, (with a weird soupcon of Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit). That then gets blended with Blood on Satan’s Claw, Witchfinder General and Don’t Look Now. Finally add ice, and Taggart, and Bob’s your weird uncle: paranormal tartan noir.

The book is beautifully written, the plot is tightly woven, and Michael J Malone is an absolutely safe pair of hands, he ties everything up and gives you a satisfying ride. I didn’t always think the blend of mystery and the supernatural was quite right, but that probably says more about what I like. If you are yearning for a bit of supernatural murder, then this is right up your dark echoing alley.




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