The Somnambulist

Jonathan Barnes, Author . Morrow $23.95 (353p) ISBN 978-0-06-137538-5

Set in Victorian London, this superb debut from British author Barnes raises the bar for historical thrillers, starting with its curious opening line: “Be warned. This book has no literary merit whatsoever.” A page-turner, it's full of peculiar characters, notably Edward Moon, a highly unorthodox detective, and Moon's bizarre sidekick, known only as the Somnambulist. Moon, “a conjuror by profession” whose act has fallen on hard times, has cracked some of the city's most notorious murders. Now, he's leading the investigation into a shadowy religious group aiming to overtake London and do away with its oppressive, bourgeois tendencies. Moon is a remarkable invention, a master of logic and harborer of all sorts of unnatural habits and mannerisms. The Somnambulist—a giant, milk-swigging mute—doesn't appear to be human at all, yet serves as Moon's moral as well as intellectual compass. Together, they wend their way through a London rich in period detail. Barnes saves his best surprise for the story's homestretch, when he reveals the identity of his narrator, who's been cleverly pulling strings since the opening. (Feb.)

Reviewed on: 11/19/2007
Release date: 02/01/2008
Genre: Fiction
Hardcover - 284 pages - 978-0-575-07941-0
Paperback - 284 pages - 978-0-575-07942-7
Paperback - 353 pages - 978-0-06-137539-2
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