Friday, February 15, 2008

#7 The Somnambulist by Jonathan Barnes

My Rating: 8 out of 10 stars

The Somnambulist is a dark fantasy sort of mystery that takes place in turn-of-the-century Victorian England. It follow the adventures of Edward Moon, stage magician and part-time detective, and his loyal sidekick the Somnambulist. When a series of bizarre murders and strange disappearances starts taking place throughout London, the Directorate turns to Moon to help them figure out what's going on. But as the investigation proceeds, and the cryptic messages from medium Madame Innocenti start to make a scary kind of sense, Edward realizes that there's something much deeper going on here... something that extends down into the very bowels beneath the city.

I received this as an Advance Readers Edition from LibraryThing's Early Reviewers Group, and unlike most ARCs, this one was actually a velobound manuscript copy with full-size 8.5" x 11" pages. It was a bit unwieldy to handle, especially trying to read in bed, but the story was good enough to keep me wanting to read on despite the uncomfortable binding format. I also found my copy was missing page 71. But because it was the first page of a new chapter, and a new section started at the top of the following page, I couldn't figure out anything important that was missing, so perhaps it was intentional. And finally, I found it odd that the date at the bottom of the pages was 6/28/07. Since this was first published in the UK in Feburary of 2007, and later in the US in Feburary of 2008, I was left wondering if I might actually have a copy of the UK manuscript, and wondering if there might be a slight difference in language and localisms between the two.

Now enough about the format and on to the story itself. It's told from the point-of-view of an outside party, one who's observing the events from the outside. Because of this, the reader doesn't get a lot of deep insight into each character's feelings and thoughts. In a way, this makes the story seem a bit cold and distant, which may in fact be the intended result. But an unfortunate side effect was that I had a more difficult time remembering some of the more personal facts about each of the characters. I felt I didn't know them as well since the author didn't really allow us to see inside their heads. *shrug* By the end of the book however, it became a bit more obvious why it was written that way, and who the person is who's telling the story. But I found it a bit disconcerting at the first in any case.

Because of my few complaints above, I couldn't give this book a perfect score. However, I really enjoyed the action, the mystery, the dark horror, and the whole wackiness of it, which made for a very enjoyable story overall. And thus, despite its few shortcomings, a book I would wholeheartedly recommend to others.

BookCrossing journal page for this book