Graphic novel and video game writer Jenkins (Fairy Quest, 2013, etc.) makes his novel debut with a story of an ordinary man whose life is upended by a theft from a magical museum.
Wil Morgan is a private investigator, and he hates his life. The former detail is revealed on page 16; the latter is clear from page 1, and how. Given that Morgan's problems include things like existential martyrdom over coffee-size naming conventions and how bored he is at work, it's tough to summon sympathy for even his legitimate woes, like his mother's death. But never fear, the plot will wrench Morgan from his doldrums, à la Alice in Wonderland; instead of a White Rabbit we have Mr. Dinsdale, a cartoonish eccentric who bullies Morgan into finding and recovering a box of levity (the opposite of gravity) stolen from Dinsdale's Curioddity Museum. From here, logic leaves the story—literally, as Morgan's arc requires him to embrace “un-looking” to see the absurd and perform intentionally pointless acts in the name of whimsy. Morgan meets a suitably wacky-but-beautiful woman, Lucy, to further transform his life with the power of love and conspiracy theories. Lucy, content to play self-described “groovy assistant” to Morgan's unlikely hero, primarily contributes interjections of “epic” and “major fail.” There's also SARA, a smartphone operating system with attitude and ex machina powers. Thanks to lamp-shaded serendipity, Morgan need do little actual investigating but is carried by coincidence to a showdown with villainous Marcus James, a product pitchman selling mediocrity. Throughout, Jenkins makes sure that his most colorful characters—similes and metaphors—get plenty of exposure. Morgan's unexpectedly touching reconciliation with his accountant father provides a bright spot in the silliness.
Jenkins aims for Neverwhere by way of Douglas Adams, but the charm isn't there.