A solid series opener which hints at even better things to come. 3.5/5 stars
Thank you to Quercus Books, Jo Fletcher Books and Netgalley for giving me an e-copy of this book in return for an honest review.
This book will be published next week on Thursday 16th June.
The blurb: For several years Miss Lane was companion, amanuensis, collaborator and friend to the lady known to the Psychical Societs only as Miss X – until she discovered that Miss X was actually a fraud.
Now she works with Mr Jasper Jesperson as a consulting detective, but the cases are not as plentiful as they might be and money is getting tight – until a case that reaches across the entirety of London lands in their laps.
It concerns a somnambulist, the disappearance of several mediums, and a cat stuck up a tree . . . the links with the cat are negligible, but there is only one team that can investigate the seemingly supernatural disappearances of the psychics and defy the nefarious purpose behind them.
Jesperson and Lane, at your service.
This is a well-written detective adventure whose prose successfully mimics the slightly stiff style of Conan Doyle and other writers of the Victorian period. Victorian London is also recreated in fantastically vivid detail. The smog, in particularly, is delightfully Dickensian and almost a character in its own right.
For those of you who dislike slow-builders, you’ll be pleased to hear that this story hits the ground running and continues at a brisk pace with plenty to keep us interested and intrigued. Meanwhile, the mystery is unravelled slowly, allowing us to see a piece of the puzzle and take a guess at what’s going on, before being told whether we’re right or not. This gives the reader the chance to feel smug and “in on it” with our detective acquaintances. All too often detective fiction can completely baffle the reader, shutting them out of the mystery entirely. I don’t find that sort of story enjoyable. Half the fun is being told just enough so you can keep up and have a guess at what’s happening, while still having some questions remain unresolved until the end.
I felt Lane and Jesperson were well-described and convincing but – at this early stage in a new series – they were still more like acquaintances to the reader than good friends. Miss Lane in particular is a bit glacial (something she herself recognises and tries to overcome) and I hope she might thaw into a more expressive person as this series continues.
SPOILER ALERT! The next paragraph contains a spoiler, please skip over it if you don’t wish to know anything about the mystery in this book!
This book only disappointed me in one significant way. I was convinced, given that Miss Lane had been so involved in debunking psychics and mediums, that there would be an entirely rational and astounding clever explanation for the mystery. So when it turns out that the psychics the duo are dealing with are real and the explanation is just… well, “it’s all magic!”, I felt a little let down.
On a final note, this book is now in the running for my “title of the year” award, currently neck and neck with Time Travelling with a Hamster!
Overall: The Somnambulist and the Psychic Thief is a well-written, entertaining mystery and solid series opener. I look forward to reading the next book and have a feeling this series will get better with every installment.
Claire Huston / Art and Soul