A review by chelsea_jack
Cannonbridge by Jonathan Barnes


Cannonbridge has the atmosphere of a modern action-mystery combined with Lovecraft. I thought this was the book's greatest strength - it has this really ominous, impending-doom atmosphere that absolutely made me think of Lovecraft. Many of the characters we meet - particularly in the historical context - become aware of a horrible truth that the reader is not let in on until the climax of the story. Instead, the reader - or at least *I* had a sense that something horrific was right around the corner through the entire book.

The book shifts back and forth from the present day to the nineteenth century. In the present, we follow Toby Judd, an academic whose wife has just left him for a leading scholar of Cannonbridge. Toby soon has an epiphany - Cannonbridge is an elaborate hoax! When he shares his observation with the world, he's forced to go on the run, egged on by other conspiracy theorists and threatened by a very lethal, very mysterious unknown aggressor. I found these sections quite interesting as this is when the story, it felt to me, is really unfolding.

In the sections from the nineteenth century, we're witnessing moments in time when Cannonbridge surfaced - always in relation to other well-known authors. I thought these were kind of neat at first, but the novelty quickly worn off. While a few of these scenes are integral to developing the tension of the story, and to providing the reader with clues about the truth, I thought that many of these scenes were ultimately unnecessary. They tended to slow the pace of the story down, and I felt that they taunted me by emphasizing all of these characters who knew the secret, while I did not. Frustrating!

There's a really clever idea here, and as the reveal does happen, it becomes clear why Cannonbridge is written the way it is. Unfortunately, there was too much build for me, too much pressure on that clever reveal. I was letdown - yes, it does really wrap things up nicely, but the pacing of the book was so often so very slow, and if I'd been slightly less committed to finishing the book? I don't know that my faith in the story really coming together would have sustained me through to the end. Cannonbridge would have worked better for me as a short story or novella, requiring less commitment to get to that clever reveal.

Bottom line:

Cannonbridge is a modern day action-mystery that delves into the historical, and while it hit so many of my sweet spots - history and academia with an emphasis on literature and authors - I just did not get hooked. The atmosphere is great - very Lovecraftian, I thought - but ultimately it took too long for the big reveal to make clear why everything was written the way it was. I would have preferred this story in a shorter length, I think!

3 stars
For fans of historical fiction, conspiracies, Lovecraft

Received in exchange for an honest review.

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