cover image The Watchmaker of Filigree Street

The Watchmaker of Filigree Street

Natasha Pulley. Bloomsbury, $26 (319p) ISBN 978-1-62040-833-9

Pulley’s electrifying debut is a triumph of speculative fiction. It captures the frenetic energy of a world undergoing extraordinary changes: London in the time of new electrical devices, Gilbert and Sullivan’s theater, and the terror of Irish nationalist bombings. Nathaniel Steepleton is a telegraph clerk in the Home Office, trapped in a life as regular as clockwork. Grace Carrow is a scientist seeking out the mysteries of ether. Their lives are brought together and into peril by association with Keita Mori, a genius watchmaker who can “remember” the future. When Steepleton receives word of a clockwork bombing and an anonymous gift of a pocket watch on the same day, he begins investigating Mori, who has been accused of building the explosive device—but those accusations are rooted in English xenophobia and exploitation of Japanese immigrants. Carrow is determined to prove Mori’s guilt, and driven to make a scientific discovery that will free her from the limits society has placed on women. Pulley expertly employs the tools of mystery and fantasy to examine the social pressures faced by the marginalized. The plot revolves around finding the bomber, but the heart of the story is the universal human quest for acceptance, understanding, and love. Agent: Jenny Savill, Andrew Nurnberg Associates (U.K.). (July)