At the heart of Heap House, amongst the piles of rubbish that cover the London borough of Filching, Clod Iremonger can hear his bath-plug speaking to him. It says ‘James Henry Hayward’. But it’s not just his bath-plug: his Uncle Aliver’s forceps say ‘Percy Hotchkiss’, whilst his grandmother’s mantlepiece says ‘Augusta Ingrid Ernesta Hoffmann’, and Cousin Bornobby’s lady’s shoe says ‘Cecily Grant’. Something very strange is going on which portends disaster for the Heaps and the whole house of Iremonger, and, with the arrival of an outsider named Lucy Pennant, everything seems on the brink of cataclysmic change.
This inventive and continually surprising novel evokes a darkly distorted image of Victorian London which is at once frightening, grotesque and often very funny. There are parallels here with Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast trilogy or China Mieville’s novels, but the world of Iremonger is distinctively Edward Carey’s own, and the twin first-person narratives from which the story is constructed are compelling. A peculiar but superbly-realised fantasy and the first book in what promises to be an excellent trilogy.