Jonathan Barnes,
The Domino Men
(HarperCollins, 2009)

More than a century ago, Queen Victoria made a pact with an entity called Leviathan: at a particular point in the future, London and all its inhabitants are to be delivered unto it. That time is about to arrive.

Henry Lamb is an unremarkable civil servant whose grandfather -- whom no one but himself has ever really liked -- has fallen into a coma. He is contacted by the only people who stand between Leviathan and London, a questionably competent group of weirdos directed by a man in a fishtank. Turns out his granddad was one of their operatives, and now Henry has to pick up where he left off. This includes locating a missing member of their team, which in turn requires him to deal with the terrifying "Domino Men" of the title, who always seem to know which psychological buttons to push to make their victims' sanity come crumbling down (hence their nickname.)

I don't want to talk too much more about the story, as it takes a number of wonderful turns that I don't wish to spoil. In the end, it comes together perfectly, with even seemingly trivial details from early on being of prime importance. The satirical twist that occurs at the climax is unexpected but it is inventive and it works.

The Domino Men is by turns creepy, hilarious and suspenseful, and sometimes more than one of these at the same time. It is an engrossing mix of technology and the occult. Jonathan Barnes has brought Lovecraft's cosmic horror into the information age. Trust the Process.

review by
Scott Promish

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