Tag Archives: jonathan barnes

review – the domino men

domWhether burned or bloody, Jonathan Barnes does love to see London in complete chaos.  It happened in his last novel The Somnambulist, and has now continued in The Domino Men.  Few things crossover between the two, save the intriguingly bizarre characters constituting his uber-secret and not-so-normal civil service division called The Directorate.  Oh, and The Prefects, can’t forget them.

The story centers around Henry Lamb, a completely ordinary though perhaps even dull, clerk who through a series of extraordinary  though familial events is drawn into a hunt, a race to prevent London’s descent into utter ruin.  By all accounts he has no business within the Directorate or even approaching The Domino Men, the only ones who can either help or even destroy the chances for success.

Barnes excellently scripts his mystery around the fog that continually encompasses London, though he also lowers a fog over the reader’s mind as well, keeping us in the dark about the major players of the novel.  He offers breadcrumbs about the Directorate and the Domino Men, the comatose grandfather of Henry, and the ever over-confident mastermind Director Dedlock, though his description is never enough to quash the ever-lingering questions the reader may conjure. A frustrating yet gripping method.  We know of a battle waged for centuries and that the Prefects are dangerous to say the least, but Barnes, hopefully in anticipation of another novel, tells us only what were allowed to know of the process.  All that is requested is that we must “trust the process”.  And in the end, the distinction of who the villain was is not at all clear.

In several ways the Domino Men surpasses The Somnambulist; the ending is much more captivating though at times the pacing can be a bit slower.  His inclusion and description of the aristocracy (Prince Arthur in particular) is quite interesting, for it is neither kind nor overtly cruel. The Prefects, however, were a bit under-described as they were in the former. Their playfully comic nastiness, hinted to atmospheric levels, falls just short of their behaviour, though admittedly ruthless and reckless as the story hits its crescendo.  Their actions are more a vehicle of the story than the framework.  Overall, its another fascinating story about London, manipulated by all creatures forceful and ubiquitously normal.  Fun yet creepy, one can only wonder how many times and what twisted ways London has fallen and yet continues to rebuild itself in the mind of Barnes.



For those who have or even haven’t read The Somnambulist by Jonathan Barnes, one should check out The Domino Men, whch comes out Feb. 12th.  Word is The Prefects are making an encore appearance.


With the intention of padding my blog with extra content, I’ll add another review I recently submitted on LibraryThing. The Somnambulist, by Jonathan Barnes is well worth the time spent reading.

The Somnambulist - Jonathan Barnes

A bizarre, not so modern mystery

Edward Moon is a “conjurer”, an entertainer struggling to preserve what little reputation and income he has left. Among polite society he is now more likely considered a laughingstock than the once promising investigator propelled by his sharpened abilities of examination. Considered past his prime, his Las Vegas-styled evening show, set in Victorian era London, is now only attracting the fanatically faithful. So Moon, along with the Somnambulist, his giant, deathly pale, almost human-like partner in crime-solving and fright inducing sidekick, is bored. Yet that is about to change.

As far as crime solving duos go could this very well be the Victorian era predecessor to our modern day Starsky and Hutch? As far as mysteries go, probably not so much, as Sherlock and Watson might have proven a more apt comparison. At least Watson talked. The Somnambulist, on the other hand, doesn’t; he would rather accompany Moon silently grasping his pints of milk.

If such a bizarre introduction to The Somnambulist intrigues you, then by all means delve deeper than the surface just scratched, as this book by Jonathan Barnes turns more curious by the page. But it is as entertaining as it is strange; Moon is as stubbornly cynical, full of snark as he is determined to solve what is the most important threat facing London. And the Somnambulist is, well, the Somnambulist. But will that threat be The Directorate, an assassin known only as The Mongoose, the fun-loving Prefects, or the very literary Chairman itself? Full of intrigue, murder, and curiosity, this story is all wrapped up into a very sharply-written novel. It’s dark, creepy, and humorously suspenseful. And it’s only the first novel written by Barnes.