Tallis’ recent move away from the Max Liebermann Mysteries, set in early 20th-century Vienna, into more modern-era psychological mysteries comes solidly into its own in The Voices, his third novel in this genre. Set in the mid-1960s in the odd, hip-but-still-constrained London milieu of failed academics and “movie music” composers, a young couple with a new baby move into an old Victorian house that is the beginning of the time-honored haunted house motif.
Part The Shining and part Turn of the Screw, the story pits the ambition of Christopher Norton against the fear his wife experiences in their ghost-ridden home. Evil things have occurred there, they begin finding out, and soon voices are heard over the baby monitor, which Christopher then decides he can start recording and perhaps incorporate into some new music he wants to compose—and launch a comeback for himself into the higher-brow music world he left behind to pursue movie soundtracks.
Tallis is a clinical psychologist and, combined with his excellent storytelling and writing, the novel is definitely a chiller and a thriller, both psychologically and physically. The pacing is excellent, the revealing moments make the hair rise on the back of your neck, and you are caught in the classic “No, please, do not open that door!” as the hapless Christopher takes one risk after another. A very good read, but probably not while in bed alone at night!