THE WHISPERING GALLERY by Richard H. Francis

THE WHISPERING GALLERY

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Another whimsical, grim, black-comic potpourri from the author of Daggerman (1980)--busily, ineffectually revolving around terrorist-crimes in Manchester, England. Wilkins, an executive of the biochemical Hautbois Company, is shot in a Manchester restaurant while being interviewed by a tabloid newsman about a recent US-astronaut disaster (caused, perhaps, by defective Hautbois fuel). Who--dunit? A weird ecological group called The Green Principle takes credit for the killing--but is ignored by the police's Inspector Chapman. Then a wacko solicitor named Anthony Manley tells the police that he saw the sniper: a ""Fat Man"" in a tropical suit. Moreover, Manley is convinced that the same Fat Man is responsible for a car-bomb attack on a Zionist heart surgeon in London. But can Manley--who has, among other quirks, a circumcision/Jewishness obsession--be taken seriously? Not at first. Eventually, however, those ""Fat Man"" clues lead to the many murder-motives at work behind the above-mentioned ""Green Principle"" group: some bio-chemical outrage, a lot of personal revenge. And the police wind up with enough information to try to prevent a second Hautbois Co. killing. As in Daggerman, Francis attempts to turn a routine little psycho-violence plot into an almost-surrealistic collage--with disjointed, offbeat vignettes: the terminal Alzheimer's disease of Inspector Chapman's wife; Chapman's affair with a young policewoman--leading to jealousy from flatulent Superintendent Rostris, who deflowered the policewoman (""Could you be jealous of another man's fart?""); the bizarre neo-Marxist credo of the Green Principle front-woman; the spreading fatalities caused by Hautbois biochemicals; etc. But, despite some moments of vivid awfulness, this grab-bag of psychopathology, sex, and politics is even less satisfying than the uneven Daggerman--fragmentary as suspense, heavy going as satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 24th, 1984
Publisher: Norton