THE WHISPERER has been knocking around for quite a few years now, having been published in “nearly twenty countries” and transited into a bunch of languages from its original Italian. I’ll freely admit that its global success was no small part of why I was keen to read it.
I also like police procedurals—which THE WHISPERER is—and serial killer tales, a category into which it also fits. So I was predisposed to like THE WHISPERER. While I did like it, I didn’t love it as much as I thought I would…but the reasons for this are a function of my idiosyncrasies rather than problems with the story itself.
THE WHISPERER concerns the search by a team of cops for the murderer of six missing children. The hunt kicks off in gruesome style, when six child-sized left arms (just left arms) are discovered buried in the woods. Each of the members of the police squad and each of the (potential) bad guys has a voice of his or her own, and each has an interesting backstory.
About halfway through, THE WHISPERER also becomes a psychological thriller, and in the context of the story, this makes perfect sense, particularly as the transition doesn’t focus on just one character.
But ask me where the story is set…and I can’t tell you. For me, a strong sense of place is an important element of my favorite books, and the lack of it in THE WHISPERER was disconcerting. I started off quite certain that it was set in Italy. But then there’s a decidedly American-style motel, which gave me pause. And units of measurement vary between metric and imperial. And no city, state or country is ever named once in the book’s 400+ pages. I understand that Carrisi likely intended this to allow readers to focus on the story rather than the setting, but for me, it had the opposite effect.
Setting—or lack thereof—aside, THE WHISPERER is a simple story buried in a complex tale as each of the sub-plots develops. The one civilian member of the police team, who also happens to be its de facto leader, criminologist Goran Gavila, is drawn in the tradition of Val McDermid’s Tony Hill. Mila Vasquez, a specialist in child abductions who joins the team for this case specifically, is deliciously flawed.
Reading THE WHISPERER made me wish yet again that I could read Italian because I expect the prose is more elegant in the original Italian than the translated English. This book is something of a commitment—it’s long, and because each of the story lines receives copious attention in the pages, it is a bit like reading 3 or 4 books at once, but if you enjoy police procedurals in the European tradition especially, it’s worth the investment.
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