Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Somnambulist by Jonathan Barnes

I've had this book on my To Read shelf for a few years now and finally picked it up. I really like the cover. The Somnambulist is set in a bizarro version of Victorian London, where stage magician and amateur detective Edward Moon and his mute, hulking assistant The Somnambulist are about to take on a bizarre murder case that is no mere murder.

The book started out fun. It's frequently amusing--not laugh-out-loud funny, but witty--and the cast of characters interested me because of all the mysteries surrounding them all. The plot had me intrigued, too. But around the halfway mark, I started to lose patience with the author.

First of all, every character is quirky to such a degree that I stopped finding it interesting. Quirky details that I thought would lead to some revelation or turn out to be clues were just there so Barnes could (presumably) pat himself on the back at how inventive he is. Second of all, the book is surprisingly joyless. I didn't like any of the characters, and the characters didn't like each other either. I lost interest in the story because I didn't care what happened to anyone in it. Lastly, the plot just fell apart at the two-thirds mark and never recovered. The end was a mess, and not an interesting one.

The writing is good, at least, and if you like this sort of book you'll probably really love The Somnambulist. I enjoyed it enough to read to the end, and I'll keep it on my shelves (mostly because of that very nice cover). But I'll be hesitant to pick up anything else by Barnes without looking very carefully at the reviews.

B&N link

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