When he’s laid off from his web design job, Clay Jannon takes a job selling books at Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore.. No, it’s not that kind of 24-hour bookstore.
Instead, it’s a used book store that harbors a “super secret” section of books that feature no ISBN numbers, aren’t in any catalog and that are only available to a mysterious set of patrons who check them out. Clay is required to keep exacting records of not only who has checked out which book but also the circumstances under which the books are checked out.
Using modern technology, Clay is able to unravel the mystery of the books, the store and the mysterious owner. What he doesn’t realize is that the secret group has been working for centuries to find these answers.
A short way to describe this one would be The DaVinci Code, only funnier. Clay’s first-person narration works well and his Robin Sloan injects a bit more humor into his super secret society than Dan Brown did. Of course, we’re not dealing with deep theological issues here either.
However, despite all of that, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore ends up being less satisfying than it could or should have been. Part of me feels like the book could have been longer, allowing Clay and his team of friends (and a potential love interest) a bit more time to breath and dwell on the mysteries they are unraveling. Weighing it at just over 200 pages, the book feels a bit rushed at times and like it’s working too hard to get to the next revelation or the final solution rather than allowing the reader to enjoy the moment with Clay and let things sink in before we move on to the next revelation.