I knew from the first sentences of this book that I was in for a unique and fun read.
Be warned. This book has no literary merit whatsoever. It is a lurid piece of nonsense, convoluted, implausible, peopled by unconvincing characters, written in drearily pedestrian prose, frequently ridiculous and wilfully bizarre. Needless to say, I doubt you'll believe a word of it.
Yet I cannot be held wholly accountable for its failings. I have good reason for presenting you with so sensational and unlikely an account.
It is all true.
The narrator of this tale is as amusing and enigmatic as he is self-effacing. He tells us the tale of one Edward Moon, a magician and detective, and his assistant, The Somnambulist, who can be run through with swords yet does not bleed. We never learn why The Somnambulist is called this and the narrator doesn't seem to care. This is just one of many "implausible" things that we are expected to accept in this bizarre tale. Moon is bored and so agrees to join a murder investigation after he is approached by Inspector Merryweather of Scotland Yard. Strangely, he is propositioned at the same time by a secret government agency, The Directorate, and is asked to figure out the origins of a mysterious plot against all of London. It turns out that the murder is the tip of the iceberg in a wholly bizarre scheme to bring down the city.
This book succeeds because of the light way in which it was written. It's true that most of it is strange and unbelievable but it doesn't attempt to be serious and dark. It was written as entertainment and it is, in fact, highly entertaining. It's one of those books that you start casting for the movie in your head while you are reading it.
This was another read for the R.I.P. IV Challenge. It had murder, circus freaks, supernatural thugs and a reanimated corpse. In short, it was a perfect perilous read. I think I received this book last Christmas and I'm annoyed that I didn't pick it up earlier. I could have enjoyed it months ago and been ready to read Barnes' new book, The Domino Men -- another tale featuring The Directorate. Now that one is on my wishlist and I'm sure I will read it as soon as I get it.
Moving on to new terrors,
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