The Secret of Mr Willer by Chicca Maralfa - Review

The Secret of Mr Willer by Chicca Maralfa - Review

The Secret of Mr Willer, released on February 26th, is the latest novel by the Apulian journalist and author Chicca Maralfa, published by Les Flâneurs Edizioni. This is the second book by the writer who had already published, with the same publishing house, Festa al Trullo, a black comedy of 2018 that had some success with audiences and critics.

Chicca Maralfa's new novel explores the contemporary world with a clear and attentive look at new media, those concerning online communication, which has become a must for the new generations but which is fascinating an increasingly transversal catchment area. The Secret of Mr Willer, in fact, has as its protagonist an influencer who uses Twitch as a means of disseminating various contents. But his story has yet to be told and the mystery behind his character has not yet been revealed. The novel, in fact, lucidly analyzes the personalities involved in solving the mystery and the new platforms for disseminating content, giving the reader a harsh analysis of contemporary life and society.

The Secret of Mr Willer, the story

The story told in Maralfa's book follows the mystery surrounding the death of Mr Willer, an unscrupulous and successful influencer (his channel has four million followers), host of an irreverent program, titled Babylon, on Twitch. The conductor takes his cue from the latest trends on social networks to build the episodes of his show and, of course, does not send them to say.

Mr Willer's language and verve in dealing with the most varied topics have contributed to making him one of the most loved and, at the same time, hated characters on the web. The discovery of his body, inside the car, takes place during the night, when his former brother-in-law, the deputy prosecutor Roberto Natali, is on duty. He will find himself investigating this story that has nothing conventional about it, in a noir-tinged Milan that will give history a setting in perfect hard boiled style.

From Chicca Maralfa's description of the crime scene the references to the life and profession of the influencer are clear right away, in an almost cinematic composition. The mystery becomes more and more dense as the investigation progresses and unexpected events in the life of Mr Willer will be brought to the surface, at the registry office Riccardo Perrone. The latter, in fact, also seems involved in a murder that took place many years earlier in his homeland, Salento, a crime he had witnessed.

The deputy prosecutor Natali and Perrone had married two sisters, but from years they no longer had any kind of relationship, for this reason, the detective does not have much information about his former brother-in-law. The reader will discover step by step the background of Mr Willer's life and work, understanding the darker aspects of his personality along with the course of the investigation.

The social criticism of Chicca Maralfa and the character of Mr Willer

We could say Babylon, the Twitch program hosted by Mr Willer, is the mirror of our society for two fundamental reasons. The first concerns the relationship of individual users with social networks, where no filter is put on the human conscience, which feels the duty to express its opinion in the most disparate ways. Most of the time these ways are not very orthodox and you risk falling into the trap of the web that gives life, "fake profile" and soul to all those people armed with hatred. The second, on the other hand, is the fictitious adulation that followers have for their favorites, even when they do not, in turn, use ways of doing politically correct, resulting in the aggressive saccenza of those who stand on a pedestal and start to judge others, just like Mr Willer.

Far from being politically correct, Mr Willer is liked for that very reason. And for the same reason he is hated. In Babylon everything is very explicit, verbal fights are the norm. Followers wallow with him. Many would like to be like him. Others would like to see him dead, but can't help but follow him.

The novel, however, also explores the hidden personality of Mr Willer, the one that is not shown to the general public, to his followers more and more numerous than him. Chicca Maralfa delves into the most adverse customs of the human soul and returns a dual portrait of the character, who becomes almost a literary type, a man torn by a pain that cannot be overcome, who in the safety of his rooms dedicates himself to the most high. A man who in showing himself to the public forgets all this and throws up all the frustrations on his followers, mirroring the incommunicability and alienation that contemporary society mercilessly returns.

We can say that Mr Willer is none other than a inept contemporary. In the same way as Alfonso Nitti (character of A Life by Italo Svevo), he is incapable of life, something holds him back, he is in the trap of society together with his admirers who venerate him and can not help but continue to spit in the face of life , watch it flow next to his own figure emptied of humanity. Perrone and Mr Willer are emblems, the same person, two opposite ways of being equally inept.


The novel The Secret of Mr Willer is a pleasant surprise of this 2021. Intense and critical of society, it manages to be a cutting-edge book, a photograph of what happens every day on social media. The mystery surrounding Perrone's (Mr Willer) death is a fact that will disrupt the lives of many people, especially his deputy prosecutor and former brother-in-law, Roberto Natali. The latter will find himself investigating not only the death of the influencer, but also his life choices, returning to the reader a portrait different from what he expected.

The style of the novel is characteristic of the genre investigative. A crime story, that of Maralfa, well constructed that manages to respect the canons imposed by the genre, discovering, however, a new way of narrating, more immediate and directly connected to the language of social networks. The narrative structure is rich in detail and the fast syntax helps the reader to immerse themselves in the story easily. A novel certainly not to be missed, full of twists that will keep the reader glued to the pages of the book.

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