If Jonathan Coe and Iain Banks collaborated in rewriting Mary Shelley, it might look something like Strange Bodies. Marcel Theroux’s fifth novel is filled with crazed Russian scientists, locked psychiatric wards and a reincarnated Dr Johnson roaming the streets of 21st-century London. But it’s also the tale of a rather grey, middle-aged academic surveying the ruins of his marriage. Gothic melodrama collides with bathetic English comedy: Strange Bodies is a Frankenstein’s monster of a story. Fortunately, Theroux delivers enough energy to jolt it into life.
The book starts with a riddle. Dr Nicholas Slopen, expert in the letters of Samuel Johnson, has been dead for months. There was even an obituary in the Telegraph. So who is the man who drops in unexpectedly on Sukie, one of Slopen’s former girlfriends? He doesn’t look like Slopen