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Excerpt from The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Watchmaker of Filigree Street

by Natasha Pulley

The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley X
The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley
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  • First Published:
    Jul 2015, 336 pages
    Jul 2015, 336 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Sharry Wright
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Print Excerpt

The local beggar was sleeping under the boarding house's wide porch.

'Evening, George.'

'Gngh,' said George.

Inside, Thaniel climbed the wooden stairs as quietly as he could, because the walls were thin. His room was on the third floor, on the river side. Although the boarding house looked bleak from outside – the damp and the fog had streaked the outer walls with mildew – it was much better in. The rooms were plain and neat, each with a bed, a stove, and a plumbed sink. By rule of the landlady, the boarders were all single men, and given a bed and one meal a day for the flat annual cost of fifty pounds. Very much the same, in fact, as the inmates of the prison next door. He felt bitter about that sometimes. He had meant to do better in life than a prisoner. At the top of the steps, he saw that his door was already ajar.

He stopped, listening. He had nothing worth stealing, although at first glance, the locked box under his bed looked valuable. A burglar wasn't to know that it was full of sheet music he hadn't touched for years.

He stopped breathing so that he could hear properly. Everything was silent, but somebody else could have been holding his breath inside. After standing for a long time, he pushed the door open with his fingertips and stood sharply back. No one came out. Leaving the door open for the light, he snatched a match from the dresser and struck it against the wall. While he held the match to the lamp wick, the back of his neck pricked and burned with the certainty that somebody was about to shove past him.

When the lamp caught, the room was empty.

He stood holding the burned-down match, his back against the wall. Nothing was out of place. The match head crumbled off and hit the linoleum with a tap, leaving a smudge of black dust. He looked under the bed. The box of music was undisturbed. So were the savings he kept under the loose floorboard for his sister. It was only after he had set the floorboard back that he noticed the kettle was steaming. He put his fingertips against the side. It was hot, and when he opened the stove door, the coals were dusky red.

The crockery on the worktop was gone. He paused over that. It took a desperate burglar to steal unwashed dishes. He opened the cupboard to see if they had taken the cutlery too, and found the missing plates and bowls stacked inside. They were still warm. He left them and searched everything again. Nothing was missing, or nothing that he remembered to miss. Eventually he went back downstairs, perplexed. The cold outside felt sharper than it had a few minutes ago. As he pushed open the door, it rushed in at him, and he went out with his arms crossed tight. George was still asleep on the porch.

'George! George,' he said, giving him a shake and holding his breath. The old man smelled of unwashed clothes and animal fur. 'My flat's been burgled. Was it you?'

'You haven't got anything anyone would want to steal,' George growled, with an authority that Thaniel decided not to question just for the moment.

'Did you see anyone?'

'I might have.'

'I?… ' Thaniel went through his pockets. 'I've got four pence and an elastic band.'

George sighed and sat up in his nest of grimy blankets to take the coins. From somewhere within the folds, his ferret squeaked. 'I didn't properly see, did I? I was asleep. Or I was trying.'

'So you saw … '

'Pair of boots,' he said.

'I see,' said Thaniel. George had been middle-aged when time began, and however annoying he was, certain allowances had to be made. 'But lots of people live here.'

George shot him an irritable look. 'If you spent all day down here on the ground, you'd know everyone's boots, and none of you have got brown ones.'

Excerpted from The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley. Copyright © 2015 by Natasha Pulley. Excerpted by permission of Bloomsbury USA. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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