Book Review: The Whisperer


Author: Donato Carrisi
Publisher: Mulholland Books
ISBN: 9780316207225
Genre: Mystery


Six severed arms are discovered, arranged in a mysterious circle and buried in a clearing in the woods. Five of them appear to belong to missing girls between the ages of eight and eighteen. The sixth is yet to be identified. Worse still, the girls’ bodies, alive or dead, are nowhere to be found.

Lead investigators Mila Vasquez, a celebrated profiler, and Goran Gavila, an eerily prescient criminologist, dive into the case. They’re confident they’ve got the right suspect in their sights until they discover no link between him and any of the kidnappings except the first. The evidence in the case of the second missing child points in a vastly different direction, creating more questions than it answers.


THE WHISPERER is classified as a mystery, but the only mystery here is why I bothered to read it to the end. Un-necessarily graphic and for all the wrong reasons, Carrisi, the author—who, by the way, it should be noted, also calls himself a criminologist—seems to be under the impression this is what makes a serial killer what, more glamorous to us? I’m still scratching my head in wonderment.

Let’s start with the characters who are never really fleshed out beyond the obvious. And why do I say obvious, because the author is too lazy to go for any depth here, after all, the story—which, by the way is carried by the two main characters—do not need to be real people. They are there to carry the story, to offer exclamations of disgust and to use profanities, instead of having a personality to convey any real emotion.

These people are dealing with a cunning (so we are told) serial killer, with absolutely no empathy. But then, after reading this, you will feel that Carrisi’s characters are, themselves, devoid of any emotion.

The main character Goran Gavalia, is the civilian, a criminologist brought in to help the police find the child killer. But he spends most of the time asking every one questions or, looking off into the distance, lost in his own thoughts. And when he does talk, it’s mostly in questions or to impart wisdom: i.e., queue info dump.

The other apparent main character is a young female cop, and profiler, who hunts down pedophiles and rescues kidnapped children. A perfect fit, you would think (and how convenient) for the team. But she too is lost in her own world, as we slowly learn about her weird past. And that she too, like the serial killer, is devoid of empathy. Hence, the author emphasizes again and again, this makes her capable of identifying with the killer, and a valuable asset to the team. But she never connects, because the author never let’s us “see” the killer or interact in any way with him. Just the aftermath he leaves behind—a gruesome trail of dead children.

Which is all very frustrating.

Thin characterization hampers this convoluted grisly and morbid story, that focuses on the “how” to catch the killer—though it never really becomes a police procedural—and covers nothing of who the killer is. What he thinks. Or why he’s killing little girls. One theory, among the many we have to wade through, is that he’s getting back at the mothers of the children. All of whom are older women who have had one daughter, late in life. All are fairly well off, but come from different backgrounds. But like every other idea offered, none are really fully explored.

What I concluded from all of this dreary reading is, Carrisi seems to be exploring his own theories on what makes a serial killer, and using the character of Gavalia in which to expound further upon why people do what they do. But again, we never really get any satisfactory answers. Just lots of talk, lots of hypothesizing, and a team that drives from one grisly crime scene to another. And worse, fails at every juncture to connect the dots.

In the end, I didn’t care who the killer was. And I felt desensitized the further I read, bored and loosing interest at each supposed twist and turn that ended in another blind alley.

Drab dull characters, stilted dialogue, a lack of any pacing whatsoever, accompanied by a vapid backdrop. We’re in a generic city, somewhere. But we never get a name of any town, city or village. Every vestige to identify where this is all taking place, has been stripped out of this Italian translation. It feels like we’re somewhere in Europe, with big mountains, certainly not the UK, or even America. And the names of the characters also suggest some generic city in Europe. Even the weather is given a backseat. Because, why bother giving us any relevant detail.

Oh, and I nearly forgot, the author also throws in a psychic medium to help the police—because, after all, they don’t know their arse from their elbows—which was another ruse to provide a very salacious chapter that just, well, quite frankly, left me feeling a tad violated.

All in all, not recommended unless you want to get inside the head of an amateur criminologist, and suffer being constantly lectured too!

Rating: 4.5 / 10

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  1. January 8, 2019

    Dang Alexandra! This is the second “miss” in what, one week for you? But yes I get why you did not like it. Just hoping that your next read will be a hit (Kingdom of Copper maybe? LOL)

    • January 8, 2019

      Two misses and three really excellent reads, so I’m not too worried, Sophie. Although I would far rather have five good reads, right? 😀

  2. January 7, 2019

    Aw, another meh one? It did sound good tho!
    Seems like the chopped of body parts were more important than giving people personality 😀
    Maybe the author was trying to appeal to all readers, so they can feel like it can take place anywhere, but it does take away from the story for sure.

    • January 7, 2019

      The whole book came down to being one long, tedious lecture by the author on serial killers. There was little to no pacing, and the story, such as it was, kind of bumped from one tragedy to another, but not in a coherent way. The characters said and did the stupidest of things, and were there only to give voice to inane dialogue. Then, when the Keystone Cops bumbled another part of the case, and they brought in a medium to “dream” the killer for them, I nearly threw the book across the room, Norrie.

      Believe me, this one is not worth it.

  3. January 7, 2019

    Such a shame as the blurb sounded so intriguing and promising. I completely get your frustration. A book’s pace as well as enough mystery to keep me engaged are important so I can enjoy a book. And characters… I can just about forgive some inconsistency of pacing or even a bit of a weak mystery part as long as characters are well developed, complex and willing to grow. This would not be my thing either.
    Crossing my fingers your next pick is much more enjoyable one, fair review!

    • January 7, 2019

      I finished it, I struggled through to the bitter end, Vera, because I DNF so many books last year. I at least wanted to read to the end, and give this one a chance. But, by the end, and in those last few chapters, it just got ridiculous.

      Truly, this was a badly conceived and written book, and a poor attempt to discuss the nature of serial killers and, in particular, a type called WHISPERERS. The author should have attempted a more scholarly book, but still, I think he would have messed it up.

      Fortunately, I read THIRTEEN by Steve Cavanagh over the weekend, and it was brilliant!

      • January 8, 2019

        Great news that Thirteen was brilliant! And well done for finishing this book, I don’t know if I had such a discipline (I’m notoriously good at not finishing books ).

        • January 8, 2019

          I made a promise to myself, over Christmas, that I would try my best to finish every book I start, no matter how bad, unless, of course, it really is *that* bad! Then, all bets are off.

          And yes, after this load of drivel, I went straight into reading THIRTEEN, which was a fab fun fast read. My review will be posted tomorrow!

          • January 8, 2019

            Looking forward to reading your review of Thirteen tomorrow!

            And well done for making that promise, sometimes book can surprise it despite their meh beginnings so it’s a good idea to give them a fair chance.

            • January 8, 2019

              I know, everyone keeps telling me that I need to get to the end, but in the back of my mind, I keep thinking I could be reading a good book instead of this trash, Vera! 😉

              • January 8, 2019

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