Roy Belkin, a reclusive man, Internet troll and neurotic ritualist stars in Whispering Bodies, the debut novel from Jesse Michaels. Belkin must begin each day with the task he calls The Service: visiting Christian chat-rooms to reply to users innocent questions with mocking answers. “Why do they call the taking of the communion ‘Mass?’”? Belkin124 responds: “They call it the Mass because after Jesus was crucified, a mass of people rushed forward to the cross and ate him. Now they eat the wafer to remember it.” At forty-seven, balding, and mildly agoraphobic, Belkin is a man without direction. He rarely leaves his apartment (he refers to the outside world as The Pounding), and when he must leave, he meticulously recounts the day in his Thunder Book; a journal where he lists all that repulsed him that day.
But everything changes the day Belkin returns to his apartment to find the building ablaze along with the suspected murder of the apartment building’s maintenance man. As police question him, Belkin meets the mysterious Pernice Balfour, the alluring, religiously obsessed neighbor accused of the crime. Soon, Belkin has no choice but to come out of his shell (and his apartment) to try to clear her name. But the more Belkin investigates, the muddier things become. Wandering through San Francisco’s seedy Tenderloin district, Belkin begins to unravel the truth behind the murder, and encounters a bizarre series of characters and situations: “pansexual” crime-scene photographer, an idiot detective, and an all-knowing government operative.
Whispering Bodies is comical offbeat exploration of the wisdom found in madness and the madness found in conventional life, all brought together in a classic tale of who-done-it.
A perverse, inventive, and unremittingly funny debut novel that ingeniously marries John Kennedy Toole to Raymond Chandler.
Jesse Michaels’ Whispering Bodies is the first book I couldn’t put down in a long time. In Roy Belkin. Michaels’ has given us one of the most memorable protagonists in recent fiction — shades of a 21st Century Ignatius J. Reilly — but ultimately wholly original as he stumbles his misanthropic yet, at times, oddly hopeful way through the world. A great book.
Michaels, best known as the front man for the band Operation Ivy, creates a unique narrative voice.