Stories generally adhere to a set formula. There’s a lead character, a premise, some progress and usually an ending that all flow nicely along in a pattern. It’s worked for a very long time. Tell that to Jake Arnott, who with ‘The House Of Rumour’ has created something different that I doubt 300 words of a review will be enough to explain properly.
Having made his name with gangster thrillers, Arnott has firmly planted his feet into the Science Fiction and fantasy genre. His previous novel, ‘The Devil’s Paintbrush’ flirted with occultist Aleister Crowley, showing the author’s interest in the arena. ‘The House Of Rumour’ does a little less flirting and has a one-night stand with fantasy and perhaps lies about it the next day.
Made up of 22 loosely-connected stories, same as the Tarot’s ‘Grand Arcana’, ‘The House Of Rumour’ is full of wonderful misdirection and ambiguity. Crowley, a young Ian Fleming, Jim Jones, L Ron Hubbard and many others come together in a kaleidoscope of story-telling and intrigue that take in UFOs, New Romanticism and British wartime intelligence and, when it’s done, you’re not exactly sure what’s real and what’s not, therein lies its joy.
Quite often in a review, I will refer to a novel’s flow, be it slow and stilted or fast and smooth. With this book, I’m not sure I can really do it justice. It moves in so many different directions with varying paces that your best bet is to just go along for the ride and enjoy it.
It’s a tough demanding read but most definitely worth it in the end and one that will grow on you with repeated readings.
(pub: Sceptre/Hodder & Stoughton. 401 page hardback. Price: £17.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-340-92272-9)