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A Man of Shadows by Jeff Noon. Book Review

July 28, 2017

A Man of Shadows

In Dayzone, the lights are always on and there is no night. In Nocturna there is no day. Then there is Dusk, a place which John Nyquist, looking for a teenage runaway, must go if he is to find clues as to her whereabouts. Meanwhile a serial killer known only as Quicksilver is creating terror amongst a population unable to protect themselves from this seemingly invisible threat.

A Man of Shadows is essentially a murder mystery in which private eye, Nyquist, undertakes an assignment to find a missing heiress, while a rather unpleasant and untraceable serial killer stalks the streets. It is definitely more than a nod to noir, given the settings of cities in perpetual day and night and what these do to the mind-set of Nyquist, taking the genre to a whole new level. If you think about the world we live in and the extent to which our lives are now ruled by appointments and time management, A Man of Shadows brings an interesting perspective to the activity of clock watching. In this world time is different from one area of a city to another and even within buildings, requiring you to keep adjusting your watch. Think jet lag within only a few paces rather than after a transatlantic flight. Think of the physical and mental illness this induces because of the need to constantly adapt to whatever time zone you unwittingly find yourself in when you go out of one place into another. Think of how this can be exploited by those seeking to make money out of it. Then think about how difficult it is to solve a crime and keep your sanity when the past is always coming back to haunt you.

Do not expect the style of writing found in his earlier work, but in A Man of Shadows Jeff Noon crafts an equally bizarre world to his previous novels set in an alternative Manchester. You are not air dropped into this new world of Dayzone, Noctural and the in between Dusk, and expected to get on with it. Instead it is largely explained through the eyes of Nyquist as he passes by. You do need this because you’ll spend a while getting your head around the complexity of how Noon takes the concept of time and plays with it from every possible angle.

What emerges from the story is an intricate murder mystery set within a complex world of ruthless commerce driven by and perpetuating the notion of time, which has insinuated itself into the very minds and soul of the population governed by it.

A Man of Shadows was courtesy of Angry Robot.

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