Mark's Reviews > The Somnambulist

The Somnambulist by Jonathan  Barnes
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's review
May 12, 08

Read in April, 2008

Edward Moon, this book’s main protagonist, is a has-been stage magician and, until a bad bit of luck several years earlier that sullied his reputation, a renowned amateur detective whose skills and methods have an uncanny resemblance to Sherlock Holmes. The story is even set in Victorian England. The Somnambulist, for whom this book is named, actually has little to do with its overall plot. He is Moon’s assistant and friend, and an unusual fellow to say the least. Hairless, huge, strong, and mute (he communicates using a chalk board), Moon regularly stabs him with swords and no blood is drawn. And it’s no illusion: he doesn’t bleed for real. He also drinks vast quantities of milk.

The book’s narrative, however, is told by an anonymous writer who has the ability to relate events at which he seemed not to attend. When this mystery person does reveal his identify, it locks into the plot flawlessly. In any case, a bizarre murder involving a room with all the doors locked mystery draws Moon into a much larger plot, which only gets more confusing when he meets a man who lives his life backwards in time, meaning that if you meet him on Tuesday, he won’t remember you on Thursday since from his perspective he hasn’t met you yet. Add to this a peculiar and mysterious cult, plus Moon’s Irene Adler-like sister, and you have a fast-paced story filled with all sorts of surprises.

This is, I must admit, one of the best fantasy-mysteries I’ve ever read, and just a plain good book. I have to say there are a few unanswered questions at the end, but if I ask them here, it will spoil a few things.
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