Creeping Jenny, by Jeff Noon

Once again, I have started a series at the wrong end. Creeping Jenny is Jeff Noon’s third novel featuring detective John Nyquist. Fortunately, this novel stands on its own as it takes Nyquist into a strange version of rural England, to a town were everyone’s behavior is ruled by a series of saints. The saints are selected at random and there is no abstention for visitors. So, not only does Nyquist have to solve his own mystery, but also the ever-changing codes of conduct in Hoxley-on-the-Hale. Once I got my reading feet under me, I was completely hooked.

John Nyquist does not have an auspicious arrival in Hoxley. I doubt anyone does. Not wanting to waste any time, Nyquist visits one of the places shown in a series of mysterious photographs that have been sent to him. All he knows about the photos is that they are of various places in Hoxley and that they have something to do with his long-missing father. But when Nyquist knocks on the door of the cottage in the photo, he is quickly whisked inside. No one is supposed to be out until midnight, according to the day’s saint. A bizarrely active cup of tea, a silent wife, and a lot of denials later, and we’re off to the races.

Nyquist is a dogged detective. Even though he is variously told to not speak unless touching a particular tree, sleeping through a day, and wearing a mask to pretend to be a saint—all on top of the fact that no one seems to want to talk to this outsider about his father—Nyquist persists. And, before he knows it, Nyquist’s mystery turns into something much more sinister and more supernatural than he could have imagined when he just thought he was on the trail of a father who disappeared twenty years previously.

Mystery novels have a tendency to become rote after a while. If you read too many in a row, it started to get easy to see the twists coming and figure out who-done-it well before the detective does. For readers who love puzzles to solve in their fiction, but who are tired of the usual fare, I would definitely recommend Creeping Jenny. This odd, imaginative, engrossing book is just the thing to take you on a mind-bending adventure.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, for review consideration.


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