Jesse Michaels. Whispering Bodies: A Roy Belkin Disaster (2013) 224 pp. [tpo]
Meet Roy Belkin, a reclusive man, Internet troll, and neurotic ritualist who must begin each day with the task he calls The Service: visiting Christian chatrooms to reply to users’ innocent questions with mocking answers. At forty-seven and balding, with mild agoraphobia, 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, and learns about 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. And soon, Belkin has no choice but to come out of his shell (and his apartment) to try to clear her name. But the more that Belkin investigates, the less clear things become. Wandering through San Francisco’s seedy Tenderloin district, Belkin begins to unravel the truth behind the murder, and along the way, he encounters a bizarre series of characters and situations, including a ‘pansexual’ crime-scene photographer, an idiot detective, and an all-knowing government operative.
Setting: San Francisco (Tenderloin)