Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Receipt of a book does not guarantee a review or endorsement. My reviews are my honest opinion and are not biased for the purpose of personal gain.

When Wallace Price dies unexpectedly, he is greeted by a reaper and taken to a tea shop. Charon’s Crossing is home to Hugo, the ferryman helping lost souls pass on, through the door upstairs. Wallace was not loved in his lifetime, and he is not impressed by the situation he finds himself in now. Surely there’s some way back, there’s work to be done after all.

Wallace wondered what it said about his life (and death) that he’d ended up in a kitchen in a lopsided house in the middle of nowhere wearing nothing but a bikini.

In the Goodreads groups I frequent, everyone loves The House in the Cerulean Sea, so when I saw T.J. Klune’s books were coming to the UK I was pretty excited. I’ve held off writing this review till I read his previous book, not because they’re connected, but I knew a lot of people would be coming to Under the Whispering Door with certain expectations.

In some ways, it’s similar to Cerulean Sea, in tone and in the general set up of bureaucratic man goes to live in a quirky house with a bunch of unusual inhabitants. Now I’ve read both books, I can say I just find his writing a bit twee and not to my taste. So please bear that in mind if you’ve enjoyed his books in the past, you’ll probably like Under the Whispering Door more than I did.

Wallace Price is not a nice person, the opening pages are intended to make you hate him. The problem is, everyone in the afterlife seems to warm to him, and I didn’t, and I couldn’t really get past how he’d magically transformed into a good guy. I think he was going for a Scrooge type figure, but I’m not sure he ever really faced up to how awful he was in life.

I’ll warn you that some of the book’s descriptions on Goodreads basically tell you 75% of the plot, so I was also waiting for the thing to happen that I thought would get the story going, but that was not the gist of the book.

As with Cerulean Sea, I liked the minor characters more than the main character. There’s several dead people hanging out at Charon’s Crossing, as well as Mei the reaper there’s old Nelson and Apollo the dog, all characters I liked. There were some really moving passages about the some of the people who have passed through the tea shop too.

It’s full of what I’d guess people would call inspirational quotes. I can see why people like his writing, but it was all a bit obvious. I feel a bit like he’s writing children’s stories for adults, and I’d rather just read a kids book.

Bravery meant the possibility of death. And wasn’t that funny? Because it took being dead for Wallace to finally be brave.

Under the Whispering Door is published by Pan Macmillan and is available now in ebook, with the hardback edition available from 28th October 2021. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review via NetGalley.

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