Has anyone else read this? Because, if so, I would very much like a second opinion. I was asked to read it by a librarian friend who knows that I enjoy crime fiction. She herself was in two minds about it, and I think I can see why, but as I say, I would like to hear what others think.
The Whisperer is a first novel by an Italian writer, Donato Carrisi. Carrisi has written in the past for the cinema and you can certainly see a cinematic imagination at work in this book.
Basically, without giving too much away, the story centres around, Mila, a police woman who specialises in the rescue of abducted children. She is called in to help a dedicated and already established team following the disappearance of five young girls between the ages of eight and thirteen. A possible burial site has been identified and sure enough as the police begin to dig they also find remains. However, they are not the remains of complete corpses. All they find is a series of left arms. And they don't find five, they find six. Somewhere another girl has been abducted, but her disappearance has not been reported. Furthermore, forensic examination of the arms leads the team to believe that while the other five children are dead, the sixth may well be being kept alive. The race is on to identify that final child and to find her while there is still a chance of saving her life.
For a first novel there are many things about this book that mark Carrisi out as a writer to watch. The plotting is tight and the twists come at just the right moments and certainly surprise. But, while they are not signalled, they are still believable. This man knows a lot about human nature. Furthermore, the psychology on which the basic premise is founded is sound and this isn't surprising given that the author has a degree in law and has specialised in criminology and behavioural science. I don't want to talk about the direction his thinking actually takes because it would given too much away, but well known cases are quoted and unlikely as the underlying hypothesis might seem, when you start to think about it I'm afraid any disquiet as to its accuracy gives way to disquiet at the thought that there are humans out there who can behave like this.
I also thought that he managed his characters very well. I had clear pictures in my mind of each of them and of their relationships with each other. My only possible uncertainty was to do with the Police Chief, Roche. Accepting that he would have got as far as he has in the service asked me to be more cynical about the relationship between police and politics than I like to be. But then, I have to remember that this is Italy. It is a different system from the one I'm used to and therein lies the rub.
Because I do have some disquiet about this book and the further I read the more I began to wonder if it isn't down to the way in which it has been translated. To begin with, the actual lexical translation itself seems to me to be very uneven. One of the problems with English becoming such a universal language is that there are many different versions of English. We're probably all aware of the difference between British English and American English. Who was it said that we were two nations divided by a single language? There is the same degree of difference between other varieties as well and I think part of the problem here is that the translator hasn't decided which variety he is going to opt for. So, I will happily be reading along in British English only to suddenly come across a phrase that I have only ever heard from some of my Irish colleagues. All well and good if the character is Irish, but he isn't, he's Italian.
Or is he, because some of the names seem to have been 'translated' into English as well. Am I really supposed to think that there was a small Italian boy in a Catholic orphanage called Billy Moore? I don't think so, somehow.
But then, am I actually suppose to think that the book is set in Italy? I can't remember any direct references that would place the action that precisely. Is the translator going for a kind of universality, a one size fits all that would let any reader place the events in their own country? If so, it isn't going to work because there are aspects of the way in which the crime is solved that won't translate that neatly. And elements in the aftermath that not even I am cynical enough to think that the police would get away with in the UK.
I know I am always very wary of translations, so perhaps I am being unfair but the feeling I come away with from this book is that here is a writer of considerable potential who needs to have serious discussions with his publishers about the way any future books are prepared for the overseas market. I don't think this version does Carrisi justice. As it stands I found the story he had to tell really gripping. Next time it would be good if the narrative through which it found voice was gripping as well.