Following a London Tube disaster, three traumatised survivors turn to clinical psychologist, Dr Samantha Willerby, for help – but she’s mystified when their stories don’t add up. Her confusion turns to horror when one by one, instead of recovering, they start committing suicide.
When her partner, Conrad, begins to suffer the same terrifying flashbacks, Sam is desperate to find out what is causing them and a mysterious and chilling crime begins to unravel.
Then the flashbacks begin for Sam…
Shortly afterwards, I sauntered past the waiting area and spotted him nodding to the receptionist, accepting a small card for his next check-up. He saw me and gave a weak smile. I asked if we could have a private word in my office. I offered him a seat in front of my desk and he sat on his hands looking like a schoolboy hauled up for smoking behind the bike sheds.
‘I know we have another session soon, but I just wanted to check a few details about the fire. I don’t want to ask you anything that might be upsetting, but are you okay to run through a few simple points?’
He looked surprised. ‘Okay…’
‘I’ve been looking at your map,’ I smoothed it out in front of him. ‘And I notice here you’ve marked stairs and here you’ve got the escalators.’
‘Yeah, that’s right – and there are two lifts around here.’
‘When you came off the train and left the platform, were you on a stationary escalator or steps? Can you remember?’
‘Definitely steps,’ he said. ‘I don’t like walking up escalators when they’ve stopped, I always think they’re going to suddenly start up again or go too fast…’
‘But, in the rush to get out, could it be that you didn’t notice you were climbing a static escalator?’
He thought for a second. ‘No – because I went past the escalators, see here?’ he pointed to the map. ‘I saw everyone was crammed onto them and got to the staircase.’
‘Okay…’ My mouth was dry.
‘You said there were flames in the ticket hall – are you absolutely sure about that?’
He responded immediately. ‘God, yeah. I told you, people’s coats were on fire. It was definitely in the hall, because I remember the barriers themselves were burning.’ He started to shake.
‘It’s okay – we’ll stop there. Are you all right?’
He muttered something I couldn’t hear.
‘Let’s take a few minutes.’ I talked him through a simple grounding process to help him re-orientate himself: What day is it? What are you going to do next? Simple questions. He looked confused, but fully recovered by the time he left.
As he shut the door, I plopped down into my chair. I knew now for certain. Jake sounded so genuine and yet his story didn’t make sense. He’d told me he’d climbed up from the Central Line to the ticket hall using the steps. But, there were no steps from the platforms to the ticket hall, coming in from either east or west. I’d checked the area twice and there was access by escalators and lifts, but no steps until you want to leave the ticket hall to reach the mainline concourse.
Another part of his story didn’t add up either. He said people were on fire around him in the ticket hall, whereas the police were emphatic that the flames never got anywhere near there.
I let the silence spill across the room and stared through the seat of the chair where Jake had been sitting. One thing was clear. For some reason, Jake was lying.
A.J. Waines' 'Inside the Whispers' is the first in a new series. It is a psychological thriller so different from many others I've read before. For one thing it's refreshing not to have a detective as the lead character. Dr Samantha (Sam) Willerby is a clinical psychologist.
This is a book that literally makes you afraid of your own mind and aware of the power your mind has on you.
Sam helps people deal with the after effects of traumatic experiences. She's horrified when three of her patients commit suicide within a short period, just after visiting her. All three had turned up in her office relating pretty much the same story. That they were having terrifying flashbacks of a horrific underground tube fire in which people died, but which they survived. Samantha is dumbfounded and begins to dig deep for answers. How come all three recounted the same story? Did they know each other? Were they just confused? Were they lying? Or was there something sinister at play?
Apart from this baffling case, Sam has to deal with a jealous boyfriend and an estranged sister. Her sister, Miranda, unexpectedly turns up one day on Sam's doorstep, having been released from a mental institution, saying she needs temporary lodging. But as soon as she settles in, havoc returns in Samantha's life...
This book's plot is very unusual and well written. Apart from a few chapters from the pov of a mysterious, deeply depressed person (who is this person??), the plot is divided into two main parts, one focusing on Sam's professional life and the other on her personal one. Both parts are cleverly balanced, both gripping and disturbing in their own way. Sam's family's reality was quite tough to read about.
At times I found the book's plot not as pacey as I would have liked, but very suspenseful and it kept me on edge throughout, with questions accumulating in my mind. I have to say that through her vivid descriptions, the author has succeeded in making me feel and experience the chaos, the claustrophobia, the terror of those horrific underground scenes, visualised and described by Sam's patients.
All characters are well portrayed and realistic. I liked Sam. She's a very intelligent woman, with her head well screwed on her shoulders, but maybe somewhat naive at times. I found my opinion on Miranda changing all the time and was never expecting her story to develop the way it did. At times I wanted to slap her hard but at others I wished I could give her a tight bear hug.
With a unique, tense plot that made me practically tear my hair out at times, interesting characters, various possible suspects, twists and turns, and a jaw-dropping, totally unexpected ending, this book is certainly not short of surprises and I really enjoyed it. Do I recommend this book? Absolutely!! It's a fabulous start to a great new series. Now I'm already looking forward to meeting Dr Sam Willerby (and yes Miranda too!) again in the next book.
With many thanks to the author for an ARC of this fab book.
About the Author
AJ Waines has sold over ¼ of a million books worldwide and topped the UK and Australian Kindle Charts in 2015 with her number one bestseller, Girl on a Train. She was a Psychotherapist for fifteen years, during which time she worked with ex-offenders from high-security institutions, gaining a rare insight into criminal and abnormal psychology. AJ Waines is now a full-time novelist with publishing deals in France, Germany (Random House) and USA (audiobooks).
Her fourth novel, No Longer Safe, sold over 30,000 copies in the first month, in thirteen countries. She has been featured in The Wall Street Journal and The Times and in 2016 was ranked in the Top 10 UK authors on Amazon KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing).
AJ Waines lives in Hampshire, UK, with her husband. Visit her website and blog, or follow her on Twitter and Facebook.