Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan (Atlantic Books, £12.99)

Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin SloanI bought this at Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights (before the Five Leaves Bookshop was a gleam in Ross the Boss’s eye, I hasten to add) on a whim, purely on the basis of the cover and the title. A 24-hour bookshop… now there’s an idea… (sorry boss)

Clay Jannon loses his job as a web designer. He accidentally finds a new job on the night shift at Mr Penumbra’s Bookstore, and soon realises that this is no ordinary bookshop. Part of his training involves how to climb the ladders to the ridiculously high bookshelves, which customers aren’t allowed to access. Customers, there’s another thing. There aren’t many, they’re all very odd, and they only ever borrow the books. Clay is determined to work out what’s going on, so he applies modern technology to the problem and soon works out that the customers are trying to solve an ancient riddle. Of course, he tries to solve it… then Mr Penumbra disappears…

If you asked me what genre this book fits, I couldn’t tell you. Amazon UK has it tagged as contemporary fiction, Amazon US places it in metaphysical genre fiction. The lone copy at the Five Leaves bookshop has wandered all over the place, and I think it’s now residing in the ‘books about books’ section. I guess magical realism just about covers it. It’s a fun read – kind of a Da Vinci Code for people who have brain cells to rub together. I loved it.

Pippa Hennessy

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