Under The Whispering Door Book Review – Not quite Klune’s best work

Not quite Klune’s best work

If there’s one thing T.J. Klune knows how to do, it’s writing compelling and memorable characters. After the success of The House in the Cerulean Sea, Under The Whispering Door released a year later and with it, a whole wave of expectation from fans of the acclaimed author’s work.

On the surface, the story looks rather perfunctory and after reading the whole story, it’s hard not to disagree. However, the book is packed full of emotion and the ending is strong enough to recommend, even if the beats along the way aren’t quite as compelling as they could be.

The story centers on a corporate manager called Wallace Price. He’s infamous at his workplace for being a no-nonsense boss and he has everything he could ever dream of. He has money, an esteemed career and success. Only, all of that goes out the window when he suddenly drops dead from a heart attack.

The next thing Wallace knows, he’s a ghost, and escorted by a Reaper called Mei to a quaint little teashop called Charon’s Crossing. This place acts as a waystation between the living realm and whatever comes next. Once there, he meets his ferryman, Hugo, whom he’s supposed to trust to lead him over to the doorway to what happens next.

What begins as a simple journey of acceptance and exploration of death, soon blossoms into a romance, a comedy and even a light thriller too. The books tries to blend a fair few different genres together, and there’s a lot of compelling ideas here.

The book features some stand-out dialogue too, especially some late-scene passionate speeches about what it means to live – and to die. There’s a poetic sense of irony to the way Wallace’s character develops, and it’s a slight gripe that it’s actually spelled out late on by a character when it’s really not needed.

The plot itself isn’t much to write home about, and when you take a step back and examine it, it’s definitely a slow burn without too much depth. However, a lot of that is likely to be overlooked thanks to the characters. Each of the main players here – Mei, Wallace, Apollo, Nelson and Hugo – are written so adeptly and with such a memorable dash of charisma that you’ll likely overlook a lot of the story issues.

However, one thing that is difficult to overlook is the romance between Hugo and Wallace. Their love journey doesn’t feel particularly natural and it’s frustrating because you’ll be rooting for them to get together as the book progresses. The way both characters suddenly dive into their romantic journey is quite abrupt, whereas more of a slow burn to move from enemies to friends and then to lovers would have perhaps been more adept.

In the end though, Under The Whispering Door is a good book that could have been great. It certainly has a lot going for it, but similarly it also struggles to rise to the occasion for what’s come before. 

You can check out more book reviews here!

Leave a comment