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Sunday, April 13, 2008

33. The Somnambulist by Jonathan Barnes


Title: The Somnambulist
Author: Jonathan Barnes
Copyright: 2008
Pages: 353
Format: Hardcover
Rating: 5/5 stars
Finished: 4-13-08

I've been in need of an escape and what my fellow LT'er Irish calls a "brain candy book," and that's just what Jonathan Barnes The Somnambulist is, an escape. A fun romp through a Victorian London that isn't quite ours, with characters that are just not quite believable, telling a story that borders on the absurd... and I loved every page of it! Part historical fantasy, part murder mystery, part political intrigue, the best way to describe the book is in the authors own words, from the very opening lines of the book:
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 willfully bizarre. Needless to say, I doubt you'll believe a word of it.
Well, let me tell you right up front, that there is probably no literary value whatsoever found by the end of the book, but that does not take away from the book at all.

The Somnambulistcenters around Edward Moon, an aging, falling from fame magician, and his enigma of a partner, who is known only as the Somnambulist. While being the title character to the novel, the Somnambulist doesn't actually play in the starring role in the book, but is simply always there at the right time it seems, and is the perfect foil to Moon. In his time, it comes to light that Moon has also aided the London police on several occasions, helping them solve seemingly unsolvable crimes. And this presents my one great complaint with the book: we hear about several of these cases from Moon's past, but that's all; we are never given anymore than off-the-cuff remarks about them, no details. I want to know more about Moon and his earlier cases!

The characters in The Somnambulist are just as much fun as the story. Obviously, Edward Moon and the Somnambulist, but there is also the Human Fly, the Albino, the Prefects, the Chairman, Mrs Grossmith, Mr Cribb, Barrabas, the bearded-lady whore... the list goes on and on. Each has a part to play in the story from beginning to end, and each person's story is, for the most part, tidied up by the end of the story.

My hope remains that Jonathan Barnes continues thrilling us with tales of Edward Moon and the Somnambulist; tales of their earlier adventures and cases that are only hinted at in The Somnambulist. This book may not be for everyone, but as escapist reading, I don't think you can do much better than this!

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