The Whisperer’s Game by Donato Carrisi

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The Whisperer's Game by Donato Carrisi front cover

Translated by Katherine Gregor — Hot on the heels of The Mirror Man by Lars Kepler comes a very different but equally chilling serial killer thriller from Italian maestro Donato Carrisi. It’s a decade since his debut, The Whisperer, which terrified readers across the continent. Now The Whisperer of that first novel is back, his game as diabolical, cunning and deadly as ever.

This is a story in which the fog engulfs you, the fear sends shivers down your spine and the sense of anticipation is almost unbearable. It’s deliciously entertaining but also unsophisticated. There isn’t much psychological depth but you will be second guessing the shadows as you go to bed after putting the book down.

Just before 8pm, a woman rings the police from a remote farm house. There’s a man outside the Anderson family home. While her husband, Karl, goes to talk to the man, Frida and the two children shelter inside. The police promise to send a car but there’s a storm raging and it’s not until the morning that officers arrive. The house is drenched in blood but there is no sign of the family. A thorough examination of the scene nets few clues. Then an anonymous call points the police towards an abandoned car at a disused warehouse. Inside is a naked man, his body covered in tattoos, numbers. Blood in car indicates they have their man.

Mila Vasquez is trying to live her life and forget she was ever a cop and the terrible things she went through on her last case. Mila has a child, Alice and that in itself is a story that feeds into this novel. She also has a condition, alexithymia, which means she can’t form the usual mother daughter bond and is unable empathise with Alice or feel emotions. She is determined to make Alice’s life fulfilling unlike her won troubled past with her abusive and cruel father.

Mila is working hard at their relationship, giving the girl a decent upbringing when Judge Shutton turns up. She wants Mila to come back for a brief period and assess the suspect, now known as Enigma. Reluctantly, Mila agrees to look at the case file. Soon she is drawn into a she is face to face with Enigma. He won’t talk but he hisses something at Mila that lets her know she is at the heart of this puzzle.

The race is on to decipher the message hidden in the tattoos. Whatever Enigma has started is not finished. It becomes clear to Mila that Karl Anderson knew Enigma, and that he seems to have been running away from something or someone. The farmhouse had no technology, no link to the outside world except for a phone line. Even in a remote area, that’s very rare these days.  

It’s going to get very personal for Mila, the past is catching up with her and there’s something even more terrifying than the murder of a family waiting to be unleashed. Now the game really begins.

Carrisi invokes the best qualities of the old school chiller thriller in The Whisperer’s Game. We never quite get to see the monster, the puzzle keeps us constantly on our toes, and the pace never lets up. This is not as tightly written as The Whisperer or Carrisi’s most popular novel The Girl in the Fog but it’s scary. The plot is outlandish but you will be hooked into the game, which races along. Mila is a good foil for the evil she has to fight. The loose definition of the location and its anonymity makes the story all the more unsettling and yet descriptions of the scenery and weather play an important part in setting the mood. Perhaps better read in the daylight, this has a spellbinding quality.

We’ve previously reviewed The Lost Girls of Rome by the same author. Also see Jo Nesbo’s Harry Hole series.

Little Brown

CFL Rating: 4 Stars

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