Wednesday, April 09, 2008

The Somnambulist by Jonathan Barnes

Title: The Somnambulist
Author: Jonathan Barnes
ISBN: 9780061375385
Publisher: William Morrow (Harper Collins)
No. of pages: 353
Rating: 7/10

Synopsis (from Amazon):
'Be warned. This book has no literary merit whatsoever. It is a lurid piece of nonsense, convoluted, implausible, peopled by unconvincing characters, written in drearily pedestrian prose, frequently ridiculous and wilfully bizarre. Needless to say, I doubt you'll believe a word of it.' So starts the extraordinary tale of Edward Moon, detective, his silent associate the Sonambulist and devilish plot to recreate the apocalyptic prophecies of William Blake and bring the British Empire crashing down. With a gallery of vividly grotesque characters, a richly evoked setting and a playful highly literate style this is an amazingly readable literary fantasy and a brilliant debut.

If you like your historical crime fiction packed full of mystery and intrigue, then you could do a lot worse than picking up The Somnambulist and losing yourself between the covers. From the outset, the anonymous narrator of the tale uses misdirection and half-truths to both draw the reader and throw them off the scent without ever having realised there was a scent to begin with.

It's a cleverly-written whodunit that borders on the paranormal without ever fully crossing that line and, despite being filed with characters that wouldn't be out of place in a Victorian circus sideshow, it never quite ventures outside the realms of possibility (or, at the very least, it seems that way during the reading). Characters are wonderfully, humanly flawed and inspire a mixture of sympathy, hatred, fear and loathing, and yes, occasionally even a little love and inspiration.

Next time you're looking for something a little unusual, give this one a try.


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