"They come there and are confused." -- Job 6:20 (NKJV)
City of Whispers is another of Marcia Muller's explorations of unusual mental conditions. In this case, Sharon McCone's half brother, Darcy Blackhawk, is at the end of a long slide downhill into addiction and emotional meltdown. Near the bottom, he reaches out to Sharon with an e-mail message that draws her into a search for him. Unable to help himself very much, Darcy becomes a pawn in a bigger game that's slowly revealed through the novel. In the course of searching for Darcy, we gain added insights into Sharon's relationship with her family and Mick Savage's true motivations in life. In the background are untimely deaths, violence, and extreme danger. Sharon and Mick work together to unravel mysteries that seem to be connected to Darcy's plea.
The story has a nice subtext of how often we ignore those who need help because we just don't notice them . . . or don't notice they need help. In addition, it raises the nice moral question of how much we should do for other people, especially if we don't like them and find it unpleasant to be near them. It's unusual for detective fiction to raise such nice questions, and I upgraded the rating a bit for that.
The mystery and detection are stretched out a bit to allow time for more character development. As a result, the book feels a little padded and slow. That didn't bother me, but if you like very fast-paced, linear stories, this book could be annoying to you.
Those who will like this book best are people who enjoy learning more about Sharon and her family. The novel is rich in that dimension, and Marcia Muller does her usual masterful job of juggling a large number of characters without dropping any of them. If you are a long-time fan of the series, it would be a mistake to skip this book.