WHISPER by William Marshall


Email this review


When the vivid, intriguing Manila Bay (1986) arrived, it seemed possible that Marshall--with a new locale and new cops--had rediscovered the spark that's been missing in his ""Yellowthread Street"" series over the past few years. This second novel in the ""Manila Bay"" series, however, is Marshall at his self-indulgent worst: grotesque but not fanciful, cartoonish but not funny, overwrought instead of buoyant. A Manila faith-healer is shot to death (in public) by a fruit-vendor, who then promptly takes his own life. The owners of an antique-shop, two brothers, are killed (with a similar gun) by a young female food-packer, who runs amok until cut down by the police. A street urchin murders a rich salt farmer. And someone is terrorizing (with bombs) the dwarfs who own and operate the Gnome Home Acrobatic and One-Ring Sawdust Circus Cafe. What's going on? Why do all the murder weapons turn out to be police-department guns? Are the killings linked to rumors about poor people who just disappeared? Well, the reader knows from the start that a man on a yacht--the ""Whispering Man""--is coordinating all this mayhem, fomenting panic among the poor. Eventually, Lieut. Felix Elizalde realizes that there's a hellish CIA scheme at work to destabilize the Philippines. But the Whispering Man's real motivation--an implausibly contorted one--remains a secret until the end. There's a bit of Marshall-esque humor in the interior monologues of the two eccentric cops assigned to protect the manic dwarfs. Otherwise, however, the far-fetched yet obvious scenario here is belabored in repetitious, hysterical vignettes--making this one of the longest, as well as one of the weakest, Marshall concoctions.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1988
Publisher: Viking