Donato Carrisi was primarily known as an Italian screenwriter, but in 2009 turned his hand to writing. His debut novel has just been published as THE WHISPERER in the United States. It is a groundbreaking book of sorts, in the sense that it takes standard elements of the thriller and horror genres and stands them on end, rearranging them in unexpected ways. The result is a haunting work that pokes and prods into crevices that are not immediately visible, that are overlooked and ultimately unpleasant.
"Carrisi’s narrative is unforgettable and disturbing, one that will have you waking up at night and making sure that the doors to your home are locked and your children are safe."
Carrisi moves the reader into a horrific crime scene that is brilliant in its execution and shocking in its simplicity. A circular series of graves is discovered in a rural area containing five severed arms that belong to victims who share only their sex (female) and age (adolescence) in common. They are identified almost immediately from missing person reports, yet their bodies are nowhere to be found. A special team headed by an enigmatic criminologist named Goran Gavila is called to the gravesites to initiate an investigation. Mila Vasquez, a noted profiler specializing in abduction cases, is also brought in to assist. Vasquez has just simultaneously solved a new and a cold abduction case, rescuing two people and saving a potential victim. She is at the top of her game, yet this new assignment slowly but steadily brings her own weaknesses and eccentricities to the fore. While she has trouble meshing with the team practically from the beginning, she and the mysterious but brilliant Vasquez are drawn almost magnetically toward each other, not so much personally and emotionally as professionally.
When a sixth arm of an unidentified person is found, the discovery also reflects a deviation from the killer’s previous pattern. And when the body of one of the victims is discovered as the result of a seemingly routine traffic stop, it appears that the mystery of the killer’s identity, if not his motive, is all but resolved. Yet, this is only the beginning of THE WHISPERER. The discovery of one body leads to another, located in an unlikely place and arranged in a startling tableau. And so it goes. The more the team learns, the less it seems to know. As the investigation progresses, each member of the team becomes more emotionally frayed, no one more so than Gavilla, who, having been abandoned abruptly by his wife, is emotionally fragile to begin with. Vasquez harbors a secret that is revealed to the reader early on, at least on the surface. The depth and nature of it, though, is quite unsettling, as is the crime itself.
The common element that unites the victims gives new meaning to the term “inhuman,” all the more so for the cunning and elaborate method by which the victims are selected. As THE WHISPERER proceeds, it becomes obvious that the members of the law enforcement team charged with pursuing the murderer and bringing him to ground are as damaged as their prey is, though one never becomes confused as to what team to cheer for, so to speak.
Carrisi’s narrative is unforgettable and disturbing, one that will have you waking up at night and making sure that the doors to your home are locked and your children are safe. THE WHISPERER will take you places that you have never been by routes you will never find again. Prepare to be terrified.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 12, 2012