Ariel Manto is a PhD candidate at an English University where she is working on a thesis based on the works of an obscure author from the late 19th century. Her thesis advisor disappeared a year before the novel's action begins--on the day that a campus building collapses over a long unused railroad tunnel that runs beneath the campus.
Ariel lives a rather hand-to-mouth life, in a seedy apartment building with inadequate heat, on a budget that makes Ramen noodles a feast, and in the company of an odd assortment of characters. On the day of the building collapse, she has to walk home through an unfamiliar neighborhood, wanders into a used bookshop, and finds the elusive last book by the subject of her thesis, The End of Mr. Y.
At this point, her somewhat unconventional life takes a turn for the bizarre, and the reader should strap on the roller coaster seat belt and hold on, hands inside the car please.
Ariel begins reading the book, discovers the secret that so many have tried to surpress, and--very much like Alice down the rabbit hole--follows the clues, and formulas, and the recipes in the book to discover the secret of Mr. Y.
It's a fantastical book, but Thomas makes Ariel's strange journey, the people she meets and flees from, the atmosphere and location of her journeys, all of what she experiences in the course of the novel, move from one point to the next in a fashion that carries the reader along--a little breathlessly and mouth agape, perhaps--but anxious to see what will happen next.
Thomas is a skilled writer, and she knows how to pace the novel in a way that keeps the reader from being overwhelmed by the strangeness of the tale. Ariel is refreshingly candid about her history and her unfortunate tendency to wander down some unsavory romantic lanes. She's a forward character, technology-obsessed, casual about relationships, drifting a bit--and keenly observant of others.
Armchair Interviews says: If you're looking for an exciting story with a fantastical twist, dive into the world of Ariel Manto and The End of Mr. Y.