I liked this book for a number of reasons: it is a British mystery adventure that includes fantasy, morality, humor and a blind single-toothed pug. It’s British in a good way: think Sherlock (Cumberbatch version) rather than fusty Julian Fellowes. Surprisingly Harkaway is the son of John LeCarre. Both write thrillers, but they exist in different worlds. In Angelmaker there is no hint of John Smiley’s control and calculation, it’s chaos, magic, improbable and loads of fun.
Joe Spork is the son of gangster who is straight as an arrow. He’s chosen to follow his grandfather’s craft of clockworks and automata mechanic rather than carry off heists and burglaries like his dad. He’s made it past thirty-five years of age, battles an unwelcome cat, and is romantically unattached. So how does Joe end up making this call?
“Billy’s dead, Mercer. I’ve just found him.”
“Dead like slipped on a boar of soap or like Colonel Mustard in the library with the lead piping?”
“Very much the latter.”
The mischief-maker who started the clock running is Edie, a 90-year old retired secret agent, who by her own account has gone “postal.” Fed up with the state of the world, she has decided to make a difference. “A mysterious difference, whose precise nature she did not understand, but whose originator swore would rock the world and unravel the darkness of a thousand years.”
While home base is London, history takes us back to the land of the Opium Khan, introduces a French mathematician, a village in Cornwall that fell into the sea, and an underground London that is not the Tube. Add in a cult of “Ruskinites” gone crazy, government agents, a train, a sub, golden bees and the story takes off.
Harkaway has a brilliant sense of humor and fun, writing in a chewy delicious way. This chewiness made me slow down to enjoy the details of the characters, and read some of the funny bits out loud to my husband. A definite thumbs up!