What to say about Nick Harkaway’s Anglemaker that hasn’t already been said. Given that the first 10 pages of my copy are filled with sparkling reviews (as are both covers – inside and out), it’s hard to know what to add.
I guess I’ll start by saying it is good. That’s simple enough. It is also delightful. It is complex. It is powerful. It is gentle. It is surprising. It is frightening. It is a golden web spun from pure narrativia.
Nick Harkaway starts by introducing us to Joe Spork, son of the infamous gangster Mathew ‘Tommy Gun’ Spork, as he hides from his father’s shadow in a cavernous warehouse on the banks of the Thames. Joe spends his time repairing clockwork and defending his workshop against invasion by his neighbour’s cat, Parasite. But, as we all know, hiding from a dark past is, in fiction at least, the best way to ensure it comes looking for you. It is not long before a simple commission to repair a rare item launches Joe Spork into a world of mad monks, shadowy civil servants, serial killers and supposedly dead eastern warlords. Luckily for Joe, he has a motley band of his father’s old friends to call on for help, not to mention the legal backing of the much esteemed firm of Noblewhite and Cradle – for if there is one thing the Sir Humphries of the civil service fear it is matching machinations with a good lawyer. So the scene is set for a showdown between the good guys (who are also technically bad guys – but do it with style) and the bad guys (who are split into the mad guys and the murky greys). Oh yes, and there is the small matter of a doomsday device ticking away in the background. Joe is very determined to turn this off, mostly because he was the one who turned it on in the first place.
The pacing of the book is excellent, as is the way it weaves the narrative between the different characters and time periods, taking us back and forth between the present and the past, no matter how much the various characters would like to escape their own particular pages in history. Similarly the attention to detail is, as is fitting for a book about delicate machines, very high. Minor characters, which at first glance might appear as a little bit Basil Exposition, are built up, fleshed out, and often hold a hidden key to the next part of the mystery.
All in all a very enjoyable read. There’s humour, there’s fear, there’s action, there’s even a little bit of romance, and, of course, there is a great baddie. Dip into this book and once it’s wound up to speed it sets of running, and you’ll do all you can to keep up.
Next up in the pile, I’m going to go across the pond for Cormac McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses. Those following me from the start will know there are two of McCarthy’s books in the to-read pile: the other is Blood Meridian. Having already read The Road and No Country For Old Men, I think it’s best to split up my McCarthy’s. Like Edinburgh’s weather, murk and dark and grim can be nice for a while, but hiding from the sun for too long tends to leave me withered.