I eschewed walking the dog this morning, much to his chagrin, so I could finish The Somnambulist. Some reviews I’d skimmed over griped about the ending, particularly the last fifty pages. Just goes to show you not to trust the reviews. I loved this book! Sure there were a few slow parts in the middle, but man, that ending just had me turning page after page. I loved the fact that the narrator turned out to be the chief bad guy. I was disappointed by the fact that Mrs. Grossmith’s fiance turned out to be a spy, loosing one of the book’s tenuous holds on reality. But still, she was a great character. I would really like to see this book made into a big budget screenplay, but I know that will never happen. (Frank Miller, want a new project?)
Ok, on to some specifics. The Prefects were awesome. These brothers were dressed as and looked like English schoolboys but were fully grown adults. Hawker and Boon. They spoke in tandem, playing off each other which just made them all the creepier. Oh yeah, and they’re gruesomely effective assassins who set up their contracts by meeting with their prospective employer in abandoned school playgrounds in the dead of night.
“Please,” he said. “I’m deadly earnest. I need you to kill two men.”
“Wrong ‘uns, are they sir?
“Give us their names, sir. Do.”
These guys are gonna have me looking over my shoulder for a while. The efficiency with which they killed, but at the same time, with such flair, was fun to read, scary to think about, and those feelings combined ended up making me feel slightly slimy for liking them so much, but, wow. Their denoumont in the book’s final scenes needs to be set to a symphony and shown in agonizingly slow motion.
The narration style was great; I was not annoyed at all by having the narrator interrupt the flow of the story from time to time to apologize for some unbelievable aspect of the story but go on to beg my indulgence a bit longer, or to warn me that the next thing that happened will stretch my willing suspension of disbelief beyond the breaking point. Rather, I found that it heightened the excitement. The diction and syntax were particularly enjoyable as well, making it fun to read not only for story but for how things sounded.
I was annoyed by one line (though again, the construction of it was wonderful): “Feeling much as Jesus must have felt once Thomas had finished rummaging about in His ghostly wounds, I tried hard not to seem smug.”
Perhaps it is because we just read that pericope in church, but, Thomas never actually felt the wounds. Once he saw them he confessed, “My Lord and my God,” falling to his knees. Little things like that, which are so easily researched, that go unnoticed by either author or editor bug me. Like the book of Revelations from the previous book I read. It’s not Revelations. It’s Revelation. Do me a favor. Look it up. It’ll make you look less dumb.
Ok, rant over on that issue. All in all this was a marvelously fun novel, a great first novel, and one which makes me very anxious to read his second book, The Domino Men. Kudos to Jonathan Barnes – you kindled my imagination and didn’t take yourself so seriously as to be pretentious, but had fun writing, which led to my having fun reading. Great book.