I love the mountains of the south. When I was growing up we often drove parts of the Blue Ridge Parkway or traveled in and around the southern Appalachians where the Appalachian Trail intersects with small towns and rural roads. In Ellery Adams’ The Whispered Word, I found a town not unlike the many small towns I’ve visited over the years. If you haven’t had the chance to travel some of these back roads and explore, do yourself a favor, take some time and drive or hike through the areas. The centuries old mountains have a way of soothing your mind and soul that is unique. It’s as if you can hear the whisper of generations who’ve come before, telling your their stories and imparting their wisdom.
The Whispered Word by Ellery Adams takes place in the imaginary, small North Carolina town of Miracle Springs, a place where people come for healing of mind, body, and spirit. The central characters are Nora, Hester, June and Estella who together form the Secret, Books, and Scone Society. As the story opens, Nora discovers a young woman who says her name is Abilene, hiding in her bookstore.
The book manages to convey a sense of mystic and healing that makes the town a desirable place for tourists who are seeking healing waters at the local springs or solace and renewal within the retail spaces throughout the area. Nora’s bookstore is one of the central destinations for visitors, where she offers what she calls bibliotherapy for those in need. Likewise, Hester offers baked goods with healing properties and June is connected to the local hot springs. All four women have secrets of their own that have brought them together to form a friendship and society focused on supporting each other and helping those around them in need.
Abilene’s appearance is a complete mystery, as she shows up in clothes that are clearly not her own, wearing a hospital bracelet and refusing to talk to Nora or her friends. She demonstrates hidden skills in designing a beautiful window display overnight and in baking some unexpected, delicious treats in Hester’s bakery. Still, most of the women’s questions about Abilene go unanswered as other mysteries develop, such as was the woman in the pond a victim of suicide or murder, what does she have to do with Abilene, who are the new business owners who’ve moved in to offer consignment selling to the town’s residents who have recently experienced financial hardships, and how are they connected to the dead woman’s son.
This is the second book in the series and initially it felt as thought I was trying to play catch up in terms of the backstory for the four central characters. As the book progresses, some of Nora’s past and the reasons for her disfiguring burns are revealed as are some details for Hester and Estella. It is unclear if this information was more fully revealed in the first of the series. While the mystery itself is completely self-contained and does not require having read the first book in the series, at first there was a feeling of a few missing details. As the book continued, this became less important and the current mystery and its resolution became the central focus of the novel.
The book was well paced and provided an intriguing description of a town that beckons you to at least visit, if not consider moving there. Adams has created an atmosphere that conveys a sense of place that would provide soothing and peace, even in the midst of struggle and pain. The three friends are central to this feeling as they seek to heal wounds to the townspeople through anonymous gifts left on doorsteps in the evening along with the books from Nora’s shop, delicious treats that delight the taste buds from Hester’s bakery.
There are multiple threads throughout the novel that tie together into one cohesive story. These are well placed and serve to pull the reader through the book at a good pace and at the same time fit together smoothly to form a complex tale.
The conclusion of the book is thoroughly satisfying. I was intrigued enough to want to read the initial book in the series as well as being interested in following any future adventures of the Secret, Books, and Scones Society. There were ample opportunities to solve the mystery itself, if you weren’t so lost in the tale you just went along for the ride, as well as a nice, if somewhat predictable twist at the end. Overall, this is a series I would recommend to anyone who is looking for a new cozy series.
My thanks to NetGalley and Kensington Books for supplying an advanced digital copy with no requirement for a positive review. The opinions stated here are entirely my own.