The Domino Men: A Novel
  • The Domino Men: A Novel
  • The Domino Men: A Novel

The Domino Men: A Novel

4.2 7
by Jonathan Barnes
     
 

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In an earlier century, Queen Victoria made a Faustian bargain, signing London and all its souls away to a nefarious, inhuman entity. Now, generations later, the bill has finally come due. . . .

An amiable, unambitious London file clerk, Henry Lamb leads an unremarkable life—until the day he learns he's expected to assume the covert responsibilities of his

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Overview

In an earlier century, Queen Victoria made a Faustian bargain, signing London and all its souls away to a nefarious, inhuman entity. Now, generations later, the bill has finally come due. . . .

An amiable, unambitious London file clerk, Henry Lamb leads an unremarkable life—until the day he learns he's expected to assume the covert responsibilities of his universally despised, now comatose grandfather. London is at war, and a shadowy organization known (to a very few) as the Directorate wishes to recruit Henry to the cause. All he has to do is find "the girl," save the world from the monster Leviathan, and defeat the unspeakable evil lurking in the cellar of 10 Downing Street: the serial-slaying schoolboy twins known as the Domino Men.

Editorial Reviews

Entertainment Weekly
“Old school entertainment in the penny-dreadful tradition that almost succeeds in being as sublime as it is ridiculous.”
Washington Post
“Strange, outrageous, and wonderful … There is much that is strange, magical, and darkly hilarious about this book … An original and monumentally inventive piece of work by a writer still in his 20s. Barnes seems to leave himself room for a sequel—a consummation devoutly to be wished.”
Chicago Sun-Times
“If you only read one black comedy with the brains and labyrinthine twists of Vedantic hair-splitting, make it this one....a gripping yarn.”
Rocky Mountain News
“The best fantasy novel of the year.”
The Guardian
“A wonderfully original concoction of grotesque humour and sparkling prose.”
The Observer
“This promising debut subverts its 19th-century predecessors amusingly. Inventive and often witty. A cabinet crammed with curiosities.”
Washington Post Book World
“Unmatched life and verve.”
The Onion
“Marvelously imaginative.”
Denver Rocky Mountain News
“A fantastic novel.”
Michael Marshall
“Magical, dark, beautifully odd–and utterly compelling–this is an astonishing debut.”
Christopher Bram
“A comic extravaganza, deftly plotted, fiendishly clever, and wonderfully funny. . . . One of the classiest entertainments I’ve read.”
James Morrow
“Macabre wit and stylistic panache. Parliament should immediately pass a law requiring Barnes to write a sequel.”
San Antonio Express-News
“Another remarkable outing, an infectious blend of wit, wonder, and the bizarre presented with remarkable style. This is literary fiction for the genre fiction set, or possibly the other way around...genuinely shocking and inventive.”
Colorado Springs Independent
“Kudos Barnes for another winner that is as funny as it is creepy, as thought provoking as it is entertaining.”
mX Brisbane (Australia)
“Nothing about Barnes’s follow-up to The Somnabulist is predictable....The grotesque fantasy world is a riot.”
Jeff Vandermeer
“Sneaky, cheeky, and dark in the best possible way, Jonathan Barnes’ massively entertaining The Somnambulist manages to make the familiar daringly unfamiliar. I enjoyed the heck out of this novel.”
Jeff VanderMeer
…remember the book's title, which turns the spotlight on the Domino Men, those "creatures of fire and sulphur." Introduced in The Somnambulist, this leering pair, otherwise known as Hawker and Boon, are terrifying in a jovial, vaudevillian way: a demented, supernatural Tweedledum and Tweedledee who take pleasure in pain. They are Barnes's greatest achievement in this novel, and he gives them unmatched life and verve.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly

Barnes's second novel, a compelling supernatural thriller, shows his impressive debut, The Somnambulist(2008), was no fluke. Shadowy figures working for a covert government agency called the Directorate inform Henry Lamb, a clerk with London's civil service archive unit, that his grandfather, recently felled by a stroke, was once a major player in their secret war against the House of Windsor. In 1857, Queen Victoria promised the souls of the people of London to a monstrous Lovecraftian entity known as the Leviathan. Now the bill is due. Since Lamb's grandfather held the secret to the whereabouts of a woman named Estella, who's critical to containing the Leviathan, the members of the Directorate regard Lamb as their best hope for locating Estella. Thanks to Barnes's evocative prose, readers will easily suspend disbelief. Those who enjoy the grafting of fantasy elements onto contemporary urban landscapes will be more than satisfied. (Feb.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Reviews
The House of Windsor resembles that of Atreus while the Marx Brothers housesit, in this credibility-challenged sequel to British author Barnes's debut period melodrama The Somnambulist (2008). This one, while set in a recognizable present time, defies both logic and clear summary. Nevertheless, here's what seems to be afoot. When civil-service filing clerk Henry Lamb visits his grandfather, who has suffered a stroke, Henry is accosted, in a way, as he leaves the hospital, when a window cleaner falls to his death, but not before uttering the last words, "The answer is yes." That message will authorize Henry's entry into the shadowy world of the Directorate, a secret society (also active in The Somnambulist) waging an ongoing war against the current royal family. For Good Queen Victoria, we learn, had done something quite naughty-selling the souls of her subjects to a monstrous entity known as Leviathan, presently chained below the earth (rather like poor Prometheus), but likely to be unleashed if the Windsors' wickedness is not deflected by the hardy boys of the Directorate. You see, this drug-addicted Prince of Wales will keep mucking things up. Henry is a somewhat beguiling Unlikely Hero, and things do improve periodically with the appearances of two especially loathsome hired killers, who are perhaps on loan from Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere. Alas, even their enthusiastic sadism grows tiresome. Likewise, the display of disgustingly visceral special effects loses its charm after several orgies of slaughter. The plot is kept boiling, but the effect is somewhat like that of a toy train repeatedly hiccupping each time it passes over the same bump in the rug. There weren't this many climaxes inHenry Miller's Tropic of Cancer trilogy (besides, it was funnier). Charles and Camilla will not be amused.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780061671418
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
04/06/2010
Pages:
382
Sales rank:
1,420,502
Product dimensions:
5.30(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.00(d)

Read an Excerpt


The Domino Men



By Jonathan Barnes
William Morrow
Copyright © 2009

Jonathan Barnes All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-06-167140-1



Chapter One I'm horribly aware, as I sit at the desk in this room that you've lent me, that time is now very short for me indeed. Outside, the light of day is fading fast; in here, the ticking of the clock sounds close to deafening.

I've come to terms with the fact that I won't have time to write everything that I'd hoped-my definitive history of the war, from its origins in the dreams of the nineteenth century to the grisly skirmishes of my granddad's day to the recent, catastrophic battle in which you and I played modest parts. No, I simply have to hope that there'll be time enough for me to set down my own story, or at least as much of it as I can remember before the thing which sleeps inside me wakes, stirs, flexes its muscles and, with a lazy flick of its gargantuan tail, gives me no alternative but to forget.

I know where I have to start. Of course, I wasn't present in person-wasn't even born then-but I'm sure that it was there, for all intents and purposes, that it began. I can picture it so clearly, as though these events are calling to me across the years, pleading with me to set them down on paper.

It's probably no coincidence that I've been thinking a lot lately about the old flat, the place in Tooting Bec where I lived with Abbey in happier times and which, in a strange sort of way (although I didn't realise it back then), was always at the heart of the business. Our house was built at some point late in the 1860s. I had other things on my mind whilst I lived there and I never looked into its history, but Abbey did once, in an offhand, mildly curious sort of way, spurred on, I think, by some TV show or other. Her findings were faintly disquieting, although she never discovered what I now know about the place. But then, how could she? The Directorate kept those records locked up safe and everyone who was present or who knew anything about them is long dead.

It happened late one night towards the end of April 6, 1967. Years before the house was divided into flats and a decade or so before I came into the world, a long, dark sedan motored to a stop outside the flat in Tooting Bec. Although spring should have been in full bloom, it had felt more like winter for almost a week and everyone had started wearing thick coats, hats and scarves again, shouldering their way to the backs of their wardrobes to tug out winter outfits that they'd hoped not to see again until October.

It had been raining for hours and the streets, lit up by the unforgiving yellow of the lamps, seemed to shine and dully glisten as though they'd been smeared with some grease or unguent. No one was abroad and the only sounds were the distant wail of a baby and the plaintive whinnies of urban foxes, padding through the darkened city, foraging for anything that might prove edible amongst the junk and wreckage so carelessly abandoned by humanity.

The car door opened and a tall man unfolded himself from the driver's seat-middle-aged; sharply, almost dandyishly dressed in a dark blue, single-breasted suit and still handsome, albeit with a cruelly vulpine quality to his features. With him was a woman, about the same age, but already moving like someone much older, a brittle spinster decades before her time. Both wore expressions of stoic professionalism mingled (and I suppose we must consider this to be to their credit) with a kind of distasteful disbelief at the unconscionable demands of their jobs.

They had a passenger with them, lolling in the back seat, apparently drunk almost to the point of insensibility. It was a woman, very young and even then, after all that had been done to her, still extremely beautiful. Most of her hair had been shaved away, although a few scattered, tufty islets remained. Her scalp was marked out with scorings, scars and half-healed incisions, and she seemed only dimly aware of what was happening to her, clinging to the man in the same way in which a child clutches at her father's hand on the way to her first day at school. He pulled her out onto the street and helped her stagger towards the front door of the house, letting her slump and flop against him, an arrangement which lent him the appearance of a shop boy grappling (not a little salaciously) with a storefront dummy.

When they got to the door, the older woman reached into her handbag, first for a key and then for a pair of torches. Once the door was open and the torches were switched on, the man steered the girl over the threshold, whispering declarations of love into her ear, honeyed fictions designed with the sole purpose of keeping her moving, saccharine lies told only to propel her onwards. Inside, the house was stripped and empty. The man dragged the girl down the corridor towards the dining room, the bobbing light of his torch picking out their way. His companion, after surveying the street with baleful eyes, busied herself in locking and bolting the door and ensuring, with the painstaking paranoia of the career professional, that the place was completely free of all listening devices, surveillance equipment and sundry bugs.

In the dining room there was an old white wooden chair, a few unlit candles and a brand-new television set. The floorboards were bare and seemed to have been daubed with strange signs and symbols in what I can only hope and pray was red paint. There was a strange quality of power in the room, of energy crackling in the air, its presence understood in the same distant way in which one might sense the throb of an engine or the humming whine of a generator.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from The Domino Men by Jonathan Barnes Copyright © 2009 by Jonathan Barnes. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.


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What People are saying about this

Jeff Vandermeer
“Sneaky, cheeky, and dark in the best possible way, Jonathan Barnes’ massively entertaining The Somnambulist manages to make the familiar daringly unfamiliar. I enjoyed the heck out of this novel.”
Christopher Bram
“A comic extravaganza, deftly plotted, fiendishly clever, and wonderfully funny. . . . One of the classiest entertainments I’ve read.”
James Morrow
“Macabre wit and stylistic panache. Parliament should immediately pass a law requiring Barnes to write a sequel.”
Michael Marshall
“Magical, dark, beautifully oddand utterly compellingthis is an astonishing debut.”

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