Tuesday, March 04, 2008
The Somnambulist - review
By Jonathan Barnes
Reviewed by Matt Adcock
“Be warned. This book has no literary value whatsoever. It is a lurid piece of nonsense, convoluted, implausible, peopled by unconvincing characters, written in drearily pedestrian prose, frequently ridiculous and wilfully bizarre…”
How can you not fall in love with a book that not only opens with this but also uses it as the sales blurb on the back cover?
As a big fan of Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell which I stumbled upon by chance and was blown away by (my review here http://darkmatt.blogspot.com/2006/07/jonathan-strange-mr-norrell.html) – I was surprised to be equally taken by this lower brow but higher energy and vividly grotesque murder mystery. Which I again came across in Waterstones and just had to buy on the spot.
The hero is Edward Moon - a conjuror and amateur detective who hangs around with the titular Somnambulist, a giant bald mute who drinks only milk and who communicates using a chalkboard. Oh and it seems that the Somnambulist is impervious to physical harm – as in Moon’s stage who he survives being run through with swords without any obvious ill effects.
This novel is as promised in the blurb an absolute lurid delight, escapism at its finest, nonsense for sure but packed with a weird and wonderful cast of characters such as a crazed cult leader, a mix and match shady government Directorate run by a tragic albino and a scarred operative who likes Chinamen a little too much… Then there’s Cribb – a guy who lives his life backwards through time and my pick of this motley crew – a pair of unstoppable demonic killers who appear and act like two public schoolboys… who say things like "Murder sir? I say. What larks."
The Somnambulist is a detective novel, but it’s also a suspense thriller / pulp fiction tale of horror, one thing is for sure – it’s a great debut and an inspiration to us working on our first novels!
Can’t wait now to read his next book The Domino Men conspiracy theory you've ever heard about the royal family and the true story about where the power of Number 10 really lies. Apparently there’s a treat for Somnambulist fans as a certain couple of characters are kept within a chalk circle in a cellar beneath Downing Street…
Overall öööö1/2 (4.5/5 all is not as it seems - this is no sleepwalk!)