The Murmurings is not the book most readers will be expecting. The cover and the blurb suggest and incredibly eerie, horror-filled read, but that really isn't how West's debut is. In fact, The Murmurings is largely a slower-paced contemporary on the nature of insanity, with a bit of horror and paranormal towards the end. Thankfully, I do not mind a slower pace, so long as the characters and writing are strong.
The best part of The Murmurings is the writing. West achieves a sort of distance in Sophie's narration that perfectly suits her mental state and desire to keep herself apart from everyone. Below that frosty surface, you also get a sense of how open Sophie probably used to be. Both the contemplative and faster-paced scenes during the climax scenes are well-handled.
The concept of the murmurings creeps me out for sure. Sophie's sister Nell was put into a mental institution because she heard voices and saw weird things in the mirror. Nell ended up escaping with one of the orderlies, but then is found dead in a nearby town, hanging upside down. Sophie has started hearing the murmurs too, and Dr. Keller of Oakside, the mental hospital, keeps calling to talk to Sophie's mom. West sets up a seriously creepy concept and makes you curious to find out what's going on at Oakside.
What Left Me Wanting More:
The mental hospital has a sort of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest Vibe. The workers are all horribly creepy and rude, obviously uninterested in the rehabilitation of the patients. They give out drugs to make the patients pliable and run painful experiments. It's like only Nurse Ratched works at this place. Other than the fact that it seems to be really easy for patients to sneak out of their rooms, the mental hospital was sufficiently creepy and upsetting.
Sadly, I feel like the paranormal elements could have been a bit better-explained. I'm still not entirely certain what was going on, especially why victims ended up hanging upside down in impossible positions. Creepy? Most definitely. However, it leaves me with a lot of questions. Of course, I suppose all of it could be in Sophie's mind as she sits, drugged, in the mental hospital...
The Final Verdict:
If you're looking for a gruesome, terrifying, fast-paced read, you might want to look elsewhere, but, if you like atmospheric novels and can deal with a slower pace, I would recommend The Murmurings.