“Jesse Michaels introduces us to the oddly endearing Roy Belkin in an offbeat mystery that, at its heart, is an in-depth character study.” —Foreword Reviews
At forty-seven, balding, and mildly agoraphobic, Internet troll Roy 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 perfectly tangles comedy and pathos. I’ve talked to a few heads who have compared it to A Confederacy of Dunces, and that makes sense.” —The Rumpus
“Jesse Michaels’ debut novel is a unique and side-splitting performance, punctuated by a whip smart narrative and magnetic prose. A dizzying combination of Flann O’Brien’s The Third Policeman and Kurt Vonnegut, if he were a hostile agoraphobic.” —Alex Green, Caught in the Carousel
Michaels, best known as the front man of Operation Ivy, trades character for caricature and satire for slapstick in this disappointing debut novel. Roy Belkin is "47 years old. Bald, skinny and pockmarked" and "a man who was likely to be overlooked in most situations" as he hides away in his apartment, posting spurious comments to "Helping Hands," a spirituality message board. After a short shopping trip, he arrives at his apartment to find fire trucks outside, learns a body has been found, and from there is dragged along a wacky chain of events to clear the name of Pernice Balfour, whom he falls for the moment he sees her. The novel is riddled with flat notes, especially when Michaels attempts observational humor or tries to express Roy's love for Pernice though internal monologue. The descriptive prose is often flat and vague, never quite capturing Roy's San Francisco surroundings or rendering a believable world for the zany characters to inhabit. This is a forced and juvenile attempt at satire that falls flat.