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The Somnambulist

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An amazing literary fantasy debut. Whether with the League of Extrordinary Gentleman, The Crimson and the White or Arthur and George Victoriana has never been hotter. A beautifully written tale,a fabulously flawed narrator Nothing quite like this on the Gollancz list - perfect literary crossover Perfect for fans of Mark Gatiss' The Vesuvius Club Barnes is a reviewer for, amongst others, the Times Literary Supplement

About the Author

Jonathan Barnes is a debut novelist. He graduated from Oxford five years ago with a first in English Literature. He has had various jobs in banking but is also a reviewer for numerous literary magazines and papers.


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 2007 Reed Business Information.

Who is the Somnambulist? The character (like the novel) is festooned with layer upon layer of oddities. Not only is he a mute giant who is invulnerable to weapons and addicted to milk, but he also sleeps in a bunk bed, is completely bald, and glues a wig to his head every day. His partner, the magician and private detective Edward Moon, sleeps in the other bunk bed, dallies with bearded ladies of the evening, and has a mysterious past. In fact, nearly everyone in the turn-of-the-century Victorian London depicted here has a mysterious past, except for Mr. Cribb, who has a mysterious future because his life runs backward in time. Despite this, Barnes's literary debut doesn't come across as jokey or as an obvious parody-it takes itself seriously enough to be a compelling and entertaining read on its own merits. A reader of Edgar Allan Poe, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Wilkie Collins is likely to find plenty to wink at, but the story works on many levels. Highly recommended for public libraries.-Jenne Bergstrom, San Diego Cty. Lib. Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

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