‘Angelmaker,’ Nick Harkaway
“You seem to have fallen into a well-educated personal crisis,”
a lawyer tells the protagonist, Joe Spork, about halfway into this 500+page story, and if that isn’t a perfect summary of the book then I don’t know what is.
I had come close to buying this novel several times in the past, mainly when they had signed copies on sale in Foyle’s in London last time I was home, (and you may or may not know how addicted I am to signed books…), and equally lured by the gorgeous, die-cut cover and the stunning ‘blurb’ quotes all over it, from every newspaper imaginable and some fantastic authors, too. When I finally picked it up last week, and read it soon after, those recommendations hadn’t led me astray.
‘Angelmaker‘ is a sci-fi influenced, whodunnit-flavoured, loner-deals-with-his-murky-family-past-and-comes-good mystery, and a ripping good yarn to boot.
If that sounds complicated and layered, don’t worry, the tale is wonderfully paced and unfurls steadily, (at times perhaps a little too perfectly, but that is a small quibble given the scope and downright fun of the story).
Harkaway will have you either feeling proud of all of the subtle, fleeting references and quips which characters produce, (‘lions and tigers and bears, oh my!), or possibly rushing to Google every five minutes, (à la Tibor Fischer).
Now living in London, the author either went on one of my walking tours there or is one of the few people to know crazy trivia about his adopted home town, as there are some fantastic references to the English capital, (my favourite being a wonderful throw-away line on navigating between the former residence of the Duke of Wellington and the statue of Achilles at Hyde Park Corner that both are ‘a reminder of the importance of boots’).
The range of topics brought up are a sign of an author interested in everything, from Schrödinger’s cat and quantum mechanics, to Cartesian philosophy and questions of what constitutes the self. What is so much fun about the book is that it touches on so many subjects whilst plunging the world into James Bond-esque peril, only in more of a philosophically, scientifically and existentially fascinating way, rather than with the standard megalomaniacal nuclear-toting baddie.
I won’t even mention the actual plot: if you want a horizon-broadening page-turner for a beach holiday, give this a try. And during the interrogation scenes, I dare you not to be reminded of that scene in Marathon Man…