A couple of years ago I read an amazing debut novel titled Gone Away World. It had an outrageous velveteen cover and a great story that pissed me off so much that I put it down for months when I got to the big twist. When I finally picked it up again, I was treated to such a glorious final act, that all was forgiven. That book was written by Nick Harkaway and I am happy to say that his sophomore effort is equally great.
Angelmaker opens with a solitary clockmaker named Joe Spork. Joe’s dad was a famous gangster and his grandfather was a gifted clockmaker. Already an odd lineage. Joe lives in a warehouse/workshop with a collection of clocks and clock-work devices that he repairs and sells. He squeaks along, but his life is mostly empty.
Things change when a strange clockwork book passes through his hands. Quickly, his life is full of spies and assassins and to save himself he rejoins the criminal society of his youth. In a short span, the story begins to populate with aging spies and criminals and super-scientists of all stripes. The story at turns goes from crime thriller to pulp adventure and back again, attaining a strange sympathetic hum of activity.
Behind all of this wonderful prose is Harkaway’s love for crime novels and spy stories. One of the rather meta reveals is that Nick is John LeCarre’s son, and he spent his youth surrounded by writers and ex-spies and all of their stories. In this book, he writes a sort of love letter to these childhood memories and we, the readers, get to go along for the wild ride.
I can’t really recommend Angelmaker enough. This is a superb book, full of vivid characters and breathing life into their adventurous histories. If you’re a fan of these things, then this is a book that will not disappoint. Read it and thank me later. preferably with a bottle of whiskey.