From Publishers Weekly
There isn't much plot to Barker's Man Booker-shortlisted novel (after Clear and Behindlings), but a cast of eccentric characters, a torrent of inventive prose and an irresistible synthesis of wickedly humorous and unsettlingly supernatural elements more than compensate for the loose itinerary. The novel is set in a contemporaneous British district bisected by the arrival of the Channel Tunnel's international passenger station, a sore point for one of the central characters, cranky 61-year-old Daniel Beede, distraught at the loss of local landmarks. Beede is estranged from his prescription drug-dealing son Kane, though they share a flat, where Gaffar, a muscular Kurdish refugee with a rabid fear of salad greens, takes up residence. Beede is friends with Elen, a podiatrist, and with Isidore, Elen's paranoid and narcoleptic husband; their young son Fleet is a spooky prodigy who, in one of this intricate tale's several instances of mind-bending nuttiness, may actually be Isidore's ancestor from nine generations ago. This improbable premise is supported by the boy's propensity for quoting bits of the biography of King Edward IV's court jester, one John Scogin, the dark man who haunts the book. Despite the story's plotless sprawl, any reader open to the appeal of an ambitious author's kaleidoscopic imagination will relish this bravura accomplishment.
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'This is the work of a very fine storyteller indeed' The Times 'The writing is often hilarious. Barker carves up the suburban dinner party savagely, and anatomises the dodgiest builder on Earth...Nicola Barker's writing is hugely attractive, because it conjures images and ideas from a tremendous wealth of inspiration. It is the product of a powerful, sprawling imagination' Daily Telegraph 'A loud shout of glorious, untidy, angry, joyous life. Barker is a great, restless novelist, and "Darkmans" is a great, restless novel. At the end of 838 blinding, high-octane pages, I was bereft that there weren't 838 more' Guardian 'When a new novel by Nicola Barker arrives, there is a host of reasons to break into a smile. Chief among them is that she is one of the most exhilarating, audacious and, for want of a better word, ballsy writers of her generation. And, in a publishing terrain that often inhibits ambition and promotes homogeneity, there is nobody writing quite like her' Observer 'A visionary epic' Sam Leith, in the Spectator 'Books of the Year'