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The Somnambulist: A Novel Paperback – January 6, 2009
This month's Book With Buzz: "Stranger in the House" by Shari Lapena
In this neighborhood, danger lies close to home. A thriller packed full of secrets and a twisty story that never stops - from the bestselling author of "The Couple Next Door." See more
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. 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.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audible Audio Edition edition.
“This superb debut from British author Barnes raises the bar for historical thrillers.” (Publishers Weekly)
“Strange, outrageous, and wonderful … There is much that is strange, magical, and darkly hilarious about this book … An original and monumentally inventive piece of work by a writer still in his 20s. Barnes seems to leave himself room for a sequel—a consummation devoutly to be wished.” (Washington Post)
“Old school entertainment in the penny-dreadful tradition that almost succeeds in being as sublime as it is ridiculous.” (Entertainment Weekly)
“Magical, dark, beautifully odd–and utterly compelling–this is an astonishing debut.” (Michael Marshall, author of The Intruders)
“Sneaky, cheeky, and dark in the best possible way, Jonathan Barnes’ massively entertaining THE SOMNAMBULIST manages to make the familiar daringly unfamiliar. I enjoyed the heck out of this novel.” (Jeff Vandermeer)
“Macabre wit and stylistic panache. Parliament should immediately pass a law requiring Barnes to write a sequel.” (James Morrow, author of The Last Witchfinder and The Philosopher’s Apprentice)
“A comic extravaganza, deftly plotted, fiendishly clever, and wonderfully funny. . . . One of the classiest entertainments I’ve read.” (Christopher Bram, author of Exiles in America)
“[B]rilliant...Barnes crafts one of the finest first novels of the young century...Truly surprising plot twists and red herrings abound.” (Austin Chronicle)
“A cheeky tale...salvaged from the sensationalist novels of the past three centuries....it doesn’t take an English-lit wonk to appreciate the antic mind that would name two of the grotesquely deformed prostitutes in Mrs. Puggsley’s brothel after virginal victims of Count Dracula.” (New York Times)
“A first novel that shows all the polish and poise of a master storyteller….By turns disquieting, funny, and taunting.” (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
“Anyone who loves a good, kind of creepy thriller most likely will find something to love in [these] pages…. Thoroughly enjoyable.” (Kansas City Star)
“The Somnambulist is not your great-grandfather’s mystery yarn.” (Richmond Times-Dispatch)
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Top customer reviews
The problem that I do see is that some things from the beginning of the book are not properly explained after the excitement of the second half. The reader is left with the vague suspicion that we haven't gotten the whole story, but a clever mind should be able to fill in the blanks without too much trouble.
No plot spoilers from me. Set in Victorian England, the plot follows Edward Moon (AKA: The Conjurer), a once popular stage magician and showman who is also a part time detective, and his partner, The Somnambulist (a hulking mute with an odd ability and mysterious background), as they attempt to solve a truely bizzare series of murders.
I really enjoyed the book right up to the ending which was not as satisfying as it might have been. Still it was worthwhile and I also enjoyed the sequel, The Domino Men.