Historical Novel Society

The White Forest
I almost thought this was going to be “just” a Gothic thriller, but it quickly became so much more—a dark, haunted and haunting parapsychological journey into a mysterious underworld of Victorian England.
Jane Silverlake is a young woman with an uncanny ability to hear sounds made by the“souls” of man-made objects—furniture, candles, mementoes. She can only find peace in the realm of Nature, and seeks that solace frequently on the lonely, windswept stretches of Hampstead Heath, where her mother came to an untimely death. Handsome Nathan Ashe is fascinated by her “gift,” which can be shared when she touches another person’s skin, and he pushes her to allow him to continue to experience the mythical world it opens to him. Then Nathan goes missing, seemingly a victim of a dangerous cult of “otherworldly” pleasure seekers, and Jane and her best friend Madeline court death and danger to find him and bring him back.
The story is told in the first person by Jane and moves at a fast pace. McOmber’s debut novel is well written, chilling and spooky, and the plot is highly original. The only technique I quibbled with is the use of Nathan’s journal, which is not only read by Jane to help solve a major puzzle (a little too convenient?) but is also printed in italics, which often goes on for a few pages and gets a little tiresome. But that is indeed a quibble and the story itself is dramatic and intriguing. Jane is a very sympathetic character, and we feel with and for her as she comes to the gravest of understandings of her true nature and the responsibilities that come with this knowledge.