Reading With Fakename: The Orphan Choir

I’ve mentioned before that the way I choose books is varied, and one of my methods is simply to go to the library and cruise the shelves of “new releases”. Unfortunately, since I live in a small city where few resources are allocated to the public library, “new releases” usually means “things that were published last year”. If I want something truly new, I have to buy it from Amazon.
But that’s okay. If I haven’t heard of it, it’s new to me, right?
So it is with The Orphan Choir. When choosing a book this way, I go with a combination of how intriguing the title is, and what it says about the book and the writer on the inside cover.
The writer in this case is Sophie Hannah, who is British, writes “psychological thrillers”, and has recently been commissioned by the Agatha Christie estate to write a new novel featuring Hercule Poirot. I thought that was enough recommendation for me.
In the book, Louise Beeston and her husband Stuart live in a four-story (counting the basement, I believe) house in Cambridge. Their seven year-old son Joseph is away at school at Saviour College. Because he’s in the choir, he is required to board there, and can only come home on holidays, not even on weekends. Louise is consumed with grief, missing him. Her husband is obsessed with having the outside of their house cleaned of the 100-year old grime and coal dust that coats the brick.
Louise has a different problem, which is noise. Their next-door neighbor is driving her crazy playing loud music, and always the same songs. She calls the Environmental Health Council (these are the people who apparently respond to noise complaints, rather than the police), and they send over a woman named Pat Jervis who is surprisingly sympathetic to her. She starts keeping a diary of when the noise occurs, and a strange thing happens. Suddenly she starts hearing choral music at odd times. Not Queen, not Dolly Parton, but choral music that sounds as if her son is singing with the choir.
When her husband insists on going through with the cleaning of the exterior of the house, she insists on buying a second home to escape to. This country home is Paradise…except you know something is wrong. The rules require absolute quiet. Children, for example, are not permitted to jump into the swimming pool, because it would make a splash that might offend others. Louise seems to be heading toward “Be careful what you wish for”.
At first though, it’s idyllic. And then, Louise starts hearing the choral music again, far from the city and from her obnoxious neighbor. What can this mean?
The end is not at all what I expected and is a little jarring, and I would have said, not quite my style, but 24 hours later, I still find it haunting. So I will probably read more of Sophie Hannah.
I love accidentally discovering these little gems.

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