Creeping Jenny

A Nyquist Mystery

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Pub Date Mar 23 2020 | Archive Date Mar 20 2020

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The third book in Jeff Noon's widely acclaimed 'Nyquest Mysteries' find our protagonist caught up in a new mystery that delves into nightmares, Saints and the answer to his father's disappearance

In the winter of 1959, private eye John Nyquist arrives in the village of Hoxley-on-the-Hale with only a package of cryptic photographs, and the frail hope of finding an answer to a question he's been asking since his childhood.

But the villagers offer little help, as each day brings a twisted new rule in the name of a different Saint that they, and Nyquist, must follow. And there are whispers of the return of the Tolly Man, an avatar of chaos in a terrible mask...

As Nyquist struggles to distinguish friend from foe, and the Tolly Man draws nearer, he must race to finally settle the one mystery he has never been able to solve: the disappearance of his father.

From the singular imagination of Jeff Noon comes this dark tale of folk horror in the Philip K. Dick Award-nominated John Nyquist series.

File Under: Horror Fantasy [ Everyday Saints | Not the Ravens | Fatherland | Written in Blood ]
The third book in Jeff Noon's widely acclaimed 'Nyquest Mysteries' find our protagonist caught up in a new mystery that delves into nightmares, Saints and the answer to his father's disappearance


Advance Praise

"Noon remixes classic horror elements in this outstanding paranormal mystery… This creepy tale will delight fans of weird, understated horror from authors like Arthur Machen and Algernon Blackwood."

Publishers Weekly, starred review

“It’s a heady psychedelic mix, packed with literary allusions, which brilliantly explores notions of self-identity, personal awareness and how we fit into our own stories.”

The Guardian on The Body Library

“A disturbing and bizarre journey by one of the great masters of weird fiction.”

Adrian Tchaikovsky, Arthur C Clarke Award-winning author of Children of Time on A Man of Shadows

"Noon remixes classic horror elements in this outstanding paranormal mystery… This creepy tale will delight fans of weird, understated horror from authors like Arthur Machen and Algernon Blackwood."


Available Editions

EDITION Other Format
ISBN 9780857668400
PRICE $14.99 (USD)

Average rating from 32 members

Featured Reviews

It the book says Jeff Noon, I'm in. Creeping Jenny is an engaging read that showcases Noon's talent for words. I recommend this and any of his other titles. Worth the read.

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I read ‘A Man of Shadows’, the first of Jeff Noon’s Jon Nyquist novels, about three years ago. It was a bit of a struggle: I didn’t like him much as a character; was unsure about the shift from detective-noir to queasily-magical surrealism; and the different time-streams / cycles were confusing. But something about Nyquist and his world nagged at me ever since.

I’m glad it did, because that’s what led me to ‘Creeping Jenny’, which I enjoyed much more. That’s partly because Nyquist has been taken out of his original Dayzone/Dusk/Nocturna environment, so the time-bending stuff is gone. Instead he’s in a village, Hoxley, with its own not-of-this-world ruleset that’s easier to grasp.

Every day (well, almost every day) is governed by a different local saint, with their own restriction or effect on the population. One saint’s day bars everyone from speaking; another sees the entire village fall asleep; another sees them wearing creepy flesh-merging masks turning them into ‘Alice’ or ‘Edmund’; and so on. Nyquist has to work within this framework to unravel a puzzle that might lead him to his long-lost father.

The strangeness is still there in spades. I suspect there’ll be lots of comparisons to psychedelic drugs experiences, especially the (few, not many) parts where the prose shifts into what’s almost a babbling mania. I don’t know about drugs: to me it often felt more like a feverish dream (or nightmare!) – and a couple of nights after reading it at bedtime, I had fairly weird dreams of my own. This as a compliment…

Hoxley is also properly, deliciously Wicker-Man creepy with its Tolly Man ritual and local legends, the villagers’ distrust of outsiders, and the nature of ‘Creeping Jenny’ herself, as Nyquist uncovers it. Meanwhile, I warmed to him much more as a character: his confusion, his tiredness, his yearning for information about his father – rounding him out beyond the boozing and beatings of the first book.

It’s much more than just the ‘hard-boiled detective out of his element’ noir it may seem at first glance. ‘Creeping Jenny’ is eerily, feverishly *weird* – but this time round, that’s its strength. I’d recommend it, and I am already looking forward to seeing what awaits John Nyquist next time out.

The publisher provided me with an ARC (advanced reading copy) via NetGalley, in return for an honest review.

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I was so very excited to find a new book from Jeff Noon on Netgalley. So far his Nyquist series absolutely wowed me with his imagination and creativity. I mean, I don’t even like series. Although to be fair, these books are different enough that they can probably be read as standalones. They are mysteries of the New Weird, a fascinating blend of genres, which is to say yes, there are puzzles to solve and webs to untangle, but it is to be done in a world that plays by a very different set of rules. In fact, Noon created a radically different world for each book. And that is by far my favorite thing about Nyquist books. Even this one, which for some reason didn’t quite work for me as much as its predecessors. Mind you, that’s a very high bar to hit, meaning this was still a very good read, it’s more likely I just wasn’t exactly in the right mood for the singular weirdness of it all. So essentially it is the mystery aspect of the book that didn’t quite wow me, the world building was absolutely on par with the astounding levels of awesomeness from two previous books. This time Nyquist enters a world ruled by saints. 360 saints for 360 days, each with their own set of rules to abide, and five free days when the locals simply don’t know what to do with themselves. Such a wild and fun concept. Albeit challenging for Nyquist, who has come there to look for his father long presumed gone. Writing this review a week after reading the book, somehow the details are some already kind of fuzzy, but the main premise remains and it’s a delight. It purely delights you as a reader looking for a literary creation that is both different and original. That’s my main takeaway from reading this book and reading Noon in general. The plot details may or may not work for you to the same extent, but the world building is second to none. Absolutely superb feat of imagination. Plus great writing, as always. The Nyquists quests are dark and moody and undeniably weird and I’d imagine require a specific audience or at least an audience in a specific mood, but they are absolutely worth reading, if only to journey places unlike any others on maps you know. Recommended. Thanks Netgalley.

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Superbly thrilling mystery, richly veined with weirdness, sly humour and dollops of folk horror.

I've been reading a lot J.G. Ballard the last year or so, and I've found out a weird truth about myself - I find a lot of comfort in the unsettling weirdness of Ballard's fiction. Reading his work feels like a warm bath, albeit one with a strange smell and wait did I just see something move in the water. I get the same feeling of unsettled comfort from reading this book.

First things first - this is the third book in the John Nyquist series, and the first of the series I have read. I have read quite a few of Jeff Noon's 'first wave' of fiction in the 90s, so I had an inkling what I could expect. I wasn't disappointed.

John Nyquist is a private detective in a world that looks and feels a lot like ours, but in importants aspects is very different. It's 1959 when Nyquist is sent a set of mysterious photographs, that seem connected to his estranged father George Nyquist, who disappeared twenty years ago. The photographs seem to suggest Nyquist Sr. might still be alive, and John travels to the small town of Hoxley-on-the-Hale to start his search.

Hoxley is under the influence of 360 Saints - each day is randomly assigned a Saint, who then exerts a specific effect on the populace. One day everyone must wear masks and address women and men as Alice and Edward respectively. Another day everyone can only do and say things by half, quite literally. Not only is it deeply frowned upon to not follow these rules, in a lot of cases it is almost physically and mentally impossible not to. (There are five Saintless days per year, when nothing happens, and the villagers generally feel lost.)

It's probably not surprising to hear that the good people of Hoxley are quite an enigmatic bunch, some helpful to Nyquist, most are harder to convince.

It's a roiling mix of typically English folk horror and a taut psychological thriller. It's the villagers of Royston Vasey visiting Summerisle (although Nyquist is no whimpering Sgt Howie). There is a real comparison to Ballard: as a lot of Ballard's worlds, Nyquist's world is one full of strangeness that's easier to accept and let roll over you than to fight. It's a book where I felt compelled to keep reading, all the time knowing surely no good can come of this.

The writing itself is delicious. Words have power, both in the book's world and in the text itself. Noon's writing is exact and lyrical, sometimes slipping into poetry (and I don't mean the quoted creepy children's songs), but never losing its sense of forward thrust. Characters start out as villager stereotypes, but quickly become living, breathing people.

Frightening and compelling. Please read it, if the Saints allow it.

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Creeping Jenny by Jeff Noon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book, along with the two other standalone John Nyquist books, make up some of the most unflinchingly creative and original fiction I've ever read.

I say this without guile. If you want originality, uncompromisingly strange storytelling, and mysteries that only "feel" like traditional gumshoe Noirs until they get you firmly in its grip and twist you into psychedelic pieces, then do not pass this up.

I want to warn readers that they will get more than they bargain if they pick up one of these books, but a warning isn't fair. In fact, I think everyone should be forced to read them and discover these mysteries for themselves. It's like being welcomed into a Micky Spillane novel only to be Vandermeered or China Mievilled.

The first book was deeply disturbing with a city that was split up between an only day-side and an only night-side with a very dangerous dusk side. The second book, in a different, equally strange city, characters from books had real lives and libraries were becoming morgues with murdered people in books.

In this one, Nyquist becomes deeply enmeshed in a third, much smaller bucolic town where he tries to discover where his 20-year-missing-father had gone. Each day is like a brand new mystery, where seemingly mild small-town customs heralded by a different saint for every day, and everyone living there is compelled -- sometimes mercilessly -- to perform that story's function. Taboos, rituals, oddities... the culture here is a crazy character all on its own, and Nyquist investigates his own mystery alongside some very strange murders.

My description cannot do it justice. Nor would I want to give anything away. But this book honestly freaked me out. I could not see where it was going or where I was going to be taken. But between 1000-year-old mysteries, a dark green-man myth, stories of devils, tons of local saints (very strange ones), and one of the twistiest plots I've ever read, I can honestly say that I glowed with amazement.

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I wasn’t aware this was part of a series until I went to review it (I wish there had been some indication of that in the preliminary pages). The story was still engaging and interesting, but I felt like I was missing some integral details of Nyquist’s character (including what he looked like) and the fact that this story takes place in some sort of alternate reality version of 1960s England. If this story was intended to stand completely on its own, a little more exposition into Nyquist’s life in “Dayzone”, wherever that is, would have been helpful.

Yet, the story itself is self-contained enough that I was still very much engaged with the mystery. The setting itself is wonderful – a rural town with shifty residents and an increasingly supernatural series of rituals they partake in every day. The people Nyquist meets are either perfectly quirky or subtly sinister and it’s evident the town functions as a normal one would, despite the strange rituals it undergoes daily.

You do have to suspend your disbelief about these rituals, given how intense some of them are. But it’s possible this sort of supernatural going-on is common in Nyquist’s universe but I wasn’t aware of it, having not read the other two novels. I’m assuming this is the case, as Nyquist doesn’t seem overly perturbed that these rituals exist, which would have probably freaked out people in real life.

Unlike some detective stories, where the PI is motivated by money or some vague sense of duty, I liked that this novel has a personal focus to it, which lent Nyquist’s actions more logic – when he commits b and e’s and other risky manoeuvres it’s because he’s desperate to learn about his father. That being said, Nyquist is a rather flat character: while he fits the typical noir detective archetype, he is boring. He is either stoically plodding towards his goal, tired, or demanding answers from people (who seemed quite willing to comply for the most part). There are hints of sympathy about him and he clearly is a “good man”, but the mystery of the town compelled me far more than caring about him.

The absolute best part of this novel is the atmosphere. Noon manages to include well-known tropes of the genre (the witch in the woods, etc) but they don’t come off as cliché. It doesn’t quite reach horror levels, but the creepy ambience pervades throughout the story in a way that makes it the star of the show.

Overall, while I wish I’d known of the previous two novels before this one, it was an enjoyable, creepy mystery that kept me wondering.

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Creeping Jenny by Jeff Noon
Genre: Mystery & Thriller and Sci-fi & Fantasy
Publisher: Angry Robots
Publish Date: 23 March 2020

Star Rating: 5/5

Jeff Noon is an all-time favorite author of mine and he's back! I completely lost my self in this was amazing, weird, creepy, and surreal. I wish my imagination was as detailed and crazy as Jeff Noon's. What a world that would be to live in.

We return with the character of Private Eye John Nyquist. Its the winter of 1959 and he's in the village of Hoxley-on-the-Hale on a case for himself. He's been sent a set of mysterious photographs and one is of his father. A recent photograph of his father, which is odd since he hasn't seen him since early childhood... and is missing.

By entering this village Nyquist is entering into its world which is dominated by saints (chosen at random each day) who dictate the behavior of the villagers for that day. Nyquist has to jump through the saint's hoops while hoping to find his father. But the truth lies deep, he doesn't know friend from foe and the Tolly Man's coming.

The saints are an amazing concept. We go through days that villagers can't leave their houses, to every villager being Alice or Edward and another that makes you do everything by half. My description of them is bad but reading the book you'll see just how ingenious they are. As the book went on I kept thinking Noon had reached his creative zenith of the saints but each day brought another spectacular creation and some were just outright dark.

Apart from the setting and atmosphere the saints create we also have the bogeyman folk-tale or reality of the Tolly Man...and he's coming and the legend of the Creeping Jenny that's addicted to Nyquist, finding him in the oddest of places, even his tea.

The imagery is amazing, the creepiness is outstanding and the storytelling is on point. You need to read this story!

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for an E-ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

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Jeff Noon’s Vurt still ranks in my top 10 so he set the bar high for himself many years ago.
This is the third instalment of the Nyquist Mysteries and also my favourite of the three. It certainly helps to have read the previous two to get the backstory and the satisfaction (or not) of the conclusion, but this could still be enjoyed on its own.
It’s a fantasy-ish, horror-ish mystery, but it’s also an accomplished piece of writing. Excellent stuff.

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I was pleased to receive a copy of this from the publishers via netgalley. Having read the previous books I find the author continues to build on the atmosphere incorporated in his previous writing. The main character Is a dystopian Marlowe character. Nyquist is a down at heels individual still trying to find answers to questions unanswered way back to his childhood. A collection of old photographs throw up questions that he can’t ignore.
His life encompasses a nightmare world brilliantly capturing the dark yet complex facets of his environment. Nyquist is now out of the city seeking answers in the village of Hoxley-on the-vale and finds little help from the villagers. As usual he is on his own hitting a brick wall. Who can he trust when it’s difficult to distinguish friend from foe. A blend of dark folklore, strange village customs. Enter the Tolly Man and the Creeping Jenny of the title.
Is it possible that someone is trying to impede his investigation when a dead body appears in the village. Could Nyquist be in line for sacrifice or will he find answers to the puzzle concerning his father.
The author has his own special style of writing and you really need to pay attention. Excellent world building and character portrayal. Not giving anything away here and would recommend you read A Man of Shadows and The Body Library first to develop a feel for the character. A chance to read something a little different. Would recommend the author is a very underrated writer

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