Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is one of those books that it seems like everybody is reading, except for the people you know. It pops up on book blogs and GoodReads all the time, but I’ve never spotted one “in the wild.” Compelled by this mystery, I picked it up, finally clearing it off of my to-read list to see what all the fuss was about. Somewhat ironically, I read it while out camping, so nobody saw me reading it either. Maybe that’s what everybody’s been doing — getting the book then reading out in secret places no one can see.
It was appropriate to read Mr. Penumbra in a secret place, since it is full of secrets. The whole book is about unraveling a mystery about books, a delicious meta treat for readers who enjoy reading about reading. Which, really, is there any reader who doesn’t love reading about books?
The mystery and secrecy carries the story, so I’ll avoid talking about plot here. The writing is solid and uncomplicated and the characters straightforward, which makes for an interesting contrast between style and plot. The plot is convoluted, delightful, and strange, while the words that form that plot are simple. While I wish the characters had at least a little more depth — all of them are pretty flat and there is very little growth in anyone besides the protagonist — I enjoyed the story overall.
Mr. Penumbra is a quick, entertaining book for people who like to examine the inner workings of puzzles, and one I would recommend to all book lovers with no hesitation.