Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Somnambulist - Jonathan Barnes

A milk drinking giant and a stage magician named Edward Moon find themselves investigating murder in historic London. But Moon is more than a prestidigitator - he is the real thing. He uses real magic in his stage act. Even so, as the 1900s arrives, his career as a performer passes away.

By all accounts, this is a urban fantasy (although some would say steampunk). It is set in a gritty historical London. Moon has solved several murders in the past with his uncanny abilities, but when a zealous religious cult threatens the city itself, Edward Moon and his milk-drinking companion (the somnambulist) work to uncover the plans of the cult.

If you're a fan of supernatural detectives, this novel is a good bet. There are a number of clever twists in it, along with an unreliable narrator (not uncommon for such period works). The mood and tone of the prose work wonderfully. The book is filled with unusual characters, with even more unusual names. But it captures the spirit of the genre. And it maintains pacing, which keep the pages turning. Johnathan Barnes produces a nice balance between humor, dark mood, and several eerie moments. This is a fun novel, but it isn't always light hearted. It deals with social issues through an historic lens, and the somnambulist, who is a riddle in himself, is a clever character that acts as a moral guide through a dark world. Yet, the novel does not burden the reader with a n over-determined, historical writing style.

All of the weird elements work together to form a strong narrative, with a surprise narrator. Really, there are too many secrets to be revealed. So try reading the novel before reading too many reviews.

1 comment:

Charles Gramlich said...

I've heard some good stuff about this but haven't read it. the Psychic detective was never my favorite. Maybe a little too cerebral for my casual reading.