Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Donato Carrisi: The Whisperer (2009)

Translation: Shaun Whiteside, 2010
Edition: Abacus, 2011
Review number: 1460

Three stories come together at the beginning of The Whisperer. An investigator specialising in finding missing children rescues a boy and a girl form a paedophile, before she is immediately reassigned to work with a serial killer investigation. Although this is not Mila's area of expertise, the reason is apparent from the second strand of the story, in which five severed left arms are found buried in a wood, then a six. The first five clearly belong to five girls reported missing, but no sixth girl is known to have disappeared. The last body has another difference from the others: medical evidence suggests that she might still be alive. The clock is ticking though, as even with the proper care, she only has another ten days outside a hospital. The third thread is a description of a desperate drive by a man with an appalling secret hidden in his car, which ends and joins the serial killer thread when he is stopped by the police.

The story itself consistently seems far-fetched, but is still quite compelling to read. Serial killers who enjoy setting cryptic puzzles for the police are bread and butter for crime thriller writers, as sinister monks haunted the catacombs in eighteenth century gothic romances. The paedophile preying on children is the terror of our age, no matter how rare he might be. Using the medical deadline given to the missing girl imposes dramatic tension on the story, albeit one which feels artificial - the child has been kidnapped: are the searchers going to waste their time on Facebook without this extra incentive? All these things add up to a hackneyed plot, if one which is quite well constructed, with twists and turns in every chapter.

I found the style of The Whisperer uninspiring, descending into lazy journalistic clichés such as "It all kicked off when...".  It is hard to tell whether this is the fault of Carrisi himself, or of the translator Shaun Whiteside. In the early chapters, I found myself considering not bothering to continue several times, because I found the writing so off-putting. Eventually, though, I was drawn in, and did keep going, even though one of the twists in the story involves something I always feel is a cheat in an apparently realistic detective story: the use of a medium.

Nothing like as good as the hype - too clichéd, too poorly written, and too over the top to be seriously read as a thriller. (Maybe it's a spoof, and I just didn't notice.) My rating: 4/10.

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