The Somnambulist and the Psychic Thief – Lisa Tuttle

Somnambulist and the Psychic Thief Book Cover Somnambulist and the Psychic Thief
Lisa Tuttle
Jo Fletcher Books
June 16, 2016

For several years Miss Lane was companion, amanuensis, collaborator and friend to the lady known to the Psychical Societs only as Miss X - until she discovered that Miss X was actually a fraud. Now she works with Mr Jasper Jesperson as a consulting detective, but the cases are not as plentiful as they might be and money is getting tight - until a case that reaches across the entirety of London lands in their laps. It concerns a somnambulist, the disappearance of several mediums, and a cat stuck up a tree . . . the links with the cat are negligible, but there is only one team that can investigate the seemingly supernatural disappearances of the psychics and defy the nefarious purpose behind them: Jesperson and Lane, at your service.

I loved the idea of this book by Lisa Tuttle. Set in Victorian times, with the shades of Sherlock Holmes in the background, and with more than a little feel of Conan Doyle’s work and era, this concerns Miss Lane and Mr Jesperson. Mr Jesperson is a detective, living with his mother – a good character, who requires an assistant. Miss Lane has been a psychic investigator and now requires work. The joining of their two talents is fortunate as a number of mediums have gone missing and there is also the case of a somnambulist to investigate.

I found this an intriguing tale and it is populated by rather less than “run of the mill” characters. There is a good sense of time and place from the writing and the style and it catches the atmosphere of the era and the fascination with psychic phenomena very well. I really did enjoy the characters of Lane and Jesperson – they are worth getting to know and I was left with the feeling that more could be teased out in a future book about them. This is something of a Victorian melodrama which I guess might not appeal to some people however for others with an interest, this should be an entertaining read. While the tale is frequently quite simple it does have some aspects that are deeper which I appreciated. The use of the idea of the concept of Chinese handcuffs, for example, worked well as a illustration of deeper things. I genuinely enjoyed the ending and I do hope that there is more to come about this pair of investigators. This justifies a rating more than 3 so 3.5/5 I think.

Note – I received an advance digital copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair review