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The Domino Men: A Novel by Jonathan Barnes

The Domino Men: A Novel (original 2009; edition 2010)

by Jonathan Barnes (Author)

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3031936,938 (3.48)27
Title:The Domino Men: A Novel
Authors:Jonathan Barnes (Author)
Info:William Morrow Paperbacks (2010), 400 pages
Collections:Loaned from Library
Tags:Historical Fiction, Fantasy

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The Domino Men by Jonathan Barnes (2009)


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I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I think at some point I may have heard of Barnes’ first novel, The Somnambulist, but I can’t swear to that. This is book #2 in a series – a fact that irks me no end when I find out after I finished the book. But, I think they can be read as single novels with no detriment to the reader.

This was classified as a horror/fantasy novel. I really got no sense of horror at all. To me this novel is fantasy through and through. Darn good fantasy too. There is definitely darkness to it but nothing that at all that verges into the horror genre.

Henry Lamb is a civil servant. He is also a child star with an annoying catch phrase that follows him through life. His father died when he was young, his mother is a little daft with a series of boyfriends in tow. His grandfather, Henry’s mentor, is in a coma in the hospital.

Out of the blue, Henry is promoted to a top secret assignment in the civil service. An area known only as “The Directorate” and which is housed in a mirage inside one the cars of the London Eye. A top secret prison/holding facility is located deep within the bowels of 10 Downing Street and in this facility are The Domino Men. They are a creepy set of twins, dressed as schoolboys and they have a very sadistic side to them.

The Directorate is made up of all manner of interesting and eccentric characters who have been carefully recruited. Henry’s grandfather is one of these. And now, so is Henry. Their mission? To control and/or destroy a deal that Queen Victoria made during her reign signing away all of the souls of London to an inhuman entity.

The House of Windsor is now in a position to carry out their end of the bargain and at the same time that The Directorate is trying to foil the plot, the House of Windsor is being infiltrated by the baddies to move the plot forward.

This is a very English book with very English humor. I noted the disparity in opinions about the book and I know that English humor is not for everyone. The ending is a very dry, very black and extremely witty ending and I loved it. But that’s not say it will hit all readers the same way.

While I am not constrained by genre, I am the first to admit that fantasy is probably one of my weaker categories in that I have not read as widely in this area. But I loved this book and I am going back to find the first novel. It took me a bit to get into the story but once I locked in, I found it hard to put down.

I had to hurry up and get this review done! The book is already being snatched out of my pile to be read by someone else. And that speaks volumes about how good it is! ( )
  ozzie65 | Oct 12, 2016 |
Overall Rating: Disappointingly Predictable
The last novel of Jonathan Barnes, The Somnambulist, was mind-numbingly, awe-inspiringly, cleverly, allegorical, and though overall Barnes delivered a very well thought out plot and message, The Domino Men seemed to fall short of all it could have been. Barnes is still a brilliant writer, continuing to display his talent for finding the precise words to express himself perfectly and succinctly, rather than settling for a cluster of merely good words. His plot comes together neatly even though it begins from the most peculiar threads of fable spun through other characters, narrators, and long hidden secrets. However, unlike his first novel, his one is far more predictable.
The plot between Joe and Abbey: called it as soon as Abbey referred to him as dangerous
The ‘twist’ of Estella’s true location: Saw it the moment they announced that they were looking for a missing person with a damaged mind
As well as several other minor occurrences, yet there were still several moments of redeemability, which Barnes embraced. Again, he centered his story on a brilliant allegory of complex layers and design which I always approve of. In a way, I suppose the simplicity of the plot, the easy predictability of it, may serve to ease readers into this complex allegory, however more seasoned readers, the ones who would even be able to grasp that such an allegory even existed should also be able to make that easy leap forward. This story did not have the same level of intriguingly bizarre characters and circumstances; perhaps this was due to the different time period, which, though I understood, I also did not find appealing. I noticed also an uncharacteristic lack of humor employed in this story versus the last, and while I understand that humor is not the goal of either story, it adds flavor and captures attention.
Which brings me to another disappointment; though there was much action in this story, there were stretches of time where it seemed very dull, very dry, which could perhaps be a side-effect of its predictability. I still stand my ground on proclaiming Jonathan Barnes to possess an increasingly rare and astounding talent for writing, indeed simply for literature itself; however I believe that the The Domino Men does not display the true extent of his abilities as seen in The Somnambulist.

My Favorite Quote: “Often I’ve made myself late watching that liquid history, wondering who has come before me and who shall come after, who has watched that same stretch of river, that same water ebb and flow in its endless mysterious cycle” ( )
  kitsunekami | Jun 18, 2013 |
I really liked this book!! I haven't read the first book by Mr. Barnes yet although it is on my to-read list. This is a funny, fantasy-ish book set in London. Henry Lamb is a file clerk who leads a very boring life until his granddad ends up in a hospital with a coma and forces from the Directorate appear and pull him into a war to stop Leviathan. Great characters (I loved the Domino Men themselves and the Prince of Wales) and a fast moving story. I am looking forward to his other book!
  walterqchocobo | Apr 8, 2013 |
I picked this book up at a discount store on an impulse buy last year, and I'm really glad I did. I now recommend this book to anyone that'll listen- I Loved it that much. In fact, it was probably one of my favourite books I read last year. It's probably not for people that don't enjoy "out of the ordinary" situations. It's one of those books that takes a certain amount of suspension of disbelief. ( )
  dystopiism | Sep 29, 2012 |
This is one of those books with a fascinating premise, but in the end it doesn't quite reach its full potential. Henry Lamb, fading child star and erstwhile file clerk, is surprised to discover that he's an important player in a longstanding war between the Directorate and the House of Windsor, a war which must be won before Leviathan appears and engulfs the city of London.

Mildly ridiculous throughout, with an unrelenting second half of nonstop action and then a totally bizarre ending. Even if you enjoyed Barnes' previous book, The Somnambulist, this one may be a skipper. ( )
  JBD1 | Sep 14, 2012 |
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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.
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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.
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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.

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