Title: The Domino Men
Author: Jonathan Barnes
Length: 382 pages
Genre: modern fantasy
Plot Basics: Henry Lamb is a file clerk for the national civil service archive. When his grandfather has a stroke, Henry is recruited by a shadowy agency called the Directorate to continue his grandfather's secret work -- which Henry knows nothing about. He ends up on a mad-cap search for a woman named Estella and pursued (or led) to her by the mysterious Domino Men, all in an attempt to stop London from falling victim to the Leviathan, who is owed the whole city from a Faustian bargain made years ago by Queen Victoria.
Banter Points: So, the plot summary sounds weird, that's because the book's weird, but it's AMAZINGLY so. The plot unfolds very naturally, actually, and brings the reader along so gently that you forget just how strange this whole set-up really is.
Word Nerd is amazed at Barnes' sophomore offering after she was less than thrilled with his debut, "The Somnambulist." Henry Lamb is a delightful character, sort of Arthur Dent-ish in his approach to suddenly having to save the world. The whole book has a bit of a feel of Hitchhiker's Guide to it... if you infuse that with a big does of H.P. Lovecraft and a splash of "V for Vendetta."
Bummer Points: Word Nerd can't say what she thinks is a bummer without ruining the book. Sorry. She's staying spoiler free here today.
Word Nerd Recommendation: Two thumbs way up. Fans of quiet horror and modern fantasy, this is a must-read. Watch for The Domino Men on Word Nerd's Top Ten in 2009.