Review: The Somnambulist and the Psychic Thief

somnambulistBy Lisa Tuttle

Jo Fletcher Books, out now

Jasper Jesperson and his partner, Miss Lane – consulting detectives – are on the case…

Somehow I’ve missed the first two short stories in which Jesperson and Lane appeared, and perhaps the best recommendation I can give for this excellent detective tale is that I shall be seeking them out post-haste. There are plenty of Sherlock Holmes-esque stories around at the moment, with a number of them veering into the fantasy and science fiction field (James Lovegrove’s stories for Titan being well worth seeking out), but few invoke the late Victorian period quite as well as Lisa Tuttle does here. It’s not just the details of the technology (or lack thereof) that Tuttle nails, it’s such subtle things as when and with whom a lady would share her Christian name.

However, this is not a Holmes tale with the serial numbers filed off, by any means (even if it does touch on a subject that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was extremely interested in). You may well wonder for a lot of the story whether it does qualify as genre fiction, but rest assure it does, although I hope that that element won’t come to overshadow the strengths of the characters in future books.

The vast majority of the book is narrated by Miss Lane, and we get to know her both in what she says and what she fails to say; her partner is similarly well portrayed, mainly through her eyes. It’s a little unfortunate that we only get portions of his narration in the latter pages when it feels as if Tuttle can’t see a way of advancing the plot without it – had it turned up throughout, this wouldn’t have jarred as much, and a mix of the two in future investigations will be welcome.

Verdict: A compelling and well-told tale. 9/10

Paul Simpson



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