Seth Hahne's Reviews > The Devil's Whisper

The Devil's Whisper by Miyuki Miyabe
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Nov 08, 10


The Devil's Whisper is a novel that wants to be more than a mystery novel. And sometimes it succeeds.

Actually, taken as a straight up mystery, it's a pretty poor example of the genre. There aren't really any clues and the only way one could come to expect the conclusion to the matter is if one is given to predicting the outlandish. So it's fortunate that Miyabe's novel wants to be something other than simple detective fiction. It's kind of like Murakami's Wind-Up Bird Chronicle in that—save for that while Murakami's beast is a literary force to marvel at, slack-jawed and stupid, while it rapes the expectation of Platonic form of Literature in order to become progenitor of a genre all its own (that of the Murakami Novel), The Devil's Whisper merely dabbles in the ethics of the psychological, and in so doing becomes, well, a suspenseful novel with vaguely literary pretensions.

Don't get me wrong. I enjoyed Miyabe's tale just fine. It was slight and breezy and fun. But, well, breezy and heft are kind of natural enemies, so The Devil's Whisper naturally feels less important than some of the more valuable additions to the canon. And probably actually less important than a bus schedule.

Where most readers will stumble while indulging this suspenseful little novel is in its solution. The rigourous mind will recoil in pantomimed horror at the turn of the plot, stung by disbelief that willfully fights against suspension. I'm all for a little leeway being given to fantastic explanations, but in order to absorb the finale without reserve, readers will be persuaded to make detritus of pretty well everything that science, history, and credulity have to say on the matter.

That aside, the story is a terse, compulsive exploration of growing up outcast, living with regret, and escaping oneself from the hived mind. All in the guise of a mystery. And Miyabe proves once more that she's quite comfortable writing young protagonists. She's not as smoothly believable here as she would show herself in later expositions, but regardless. The character with which she inhabits her hero is both engaging and probable—and enjoyable enough to merit the visit into her world. No matter how different it is from ours.
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