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
    Paperback:
    Jul 2015, 336 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Sharry Wright
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Thaniel had not met most of his neighbours, but he was inclined to believe him. As far as he understood, they were all clerks of some kind; like him, they were all members of the crowd of black coats and black hats that swamped London for half an hour every morning and evening. Without meaning to, he looked down at his own black shoes. They were elderly but well polished.

'Anything else?' he said.

'Christ, what'd he take that was so important?'

'Nothing.'

George hissed his breath out between his teeth. 'What do you care, then? It's late. Some of us want to get some sleep before the constable turfs us out at the crack of dawn.'

'Oh, don't whine. You come back forty seconds after he's gone. Mystery person breaks into my flat, does the washing up and takes nothing. I'd like to know why.'

'Sure it wasn't your mother?'

'Yes.'

George sighed. 'Small brown boots. Foreign writing on the heel. Maybe a boy.'

'I want my four pence back.'

'Bugger off,' George yawned, and lay back down again. Thaniel went out on to the empty street with a half-formed hope of seeing a boy in brown boots somewhere up ahead. The ground shook as a late train passed underneath, sending up a cloud of steam through the grating in the pavement. Less quickly, he turned back inside. Taken twice in a row, the three flights of steps made his thighs ache.

Back in his room, he flicked open the door of the stove again. He sat down on the edge of the bed with his coat still on and held his hands toward the coals. A dark shape just beside him caught his eye. He stiffened because at first he thought it was a mouse, but it wasn't moving. It was a velvet box, tied with a white ribbon. He had never seen it before. He picked it up. It was heavy. On the ribbon was a circular label, etched with leaf patterns. In an angular, calligraphic hand it read: 'To Mr Steepleton'. He pulled off the ribbon and opened the box. The hinge was stiff but did not squeak. Inside was a pocket watch.

Slowly, he lifted it out. It was made of a rosy gold he hadn't seen before. The chain slithered gently after it, the links all smoothed flawless, without the slightest hairline space or ripple of solder to show where they had been joined. He wound it through his fingers until the clasp at the end tapped against his cufflink. The catch would not open when he pressed it. He held it to his ear, but the clockwork was silent and the spindle refused to wind. Somewhere in its workings, though, a few cogs must have been alive, because despite the dank cold, the case was warm.

'It's your birthday,' he said suddenly to the empty room, and sagged, feeling stupid. Annabel must have come. She knew his address from his letters and he had sent her a key for emergencies. He had always assumed, in the absence of money for the train fare, that her promises to come up to London were a sisterly nothing. George's mysterious boy was probably one of her sons. The calligraphy would have given her away sooner if he had been less tired and less distracted. Although it ought to have been the job of the butler, she had always written the place settings if the old duke was having a dinner party. He could remember doing arithmetic problems at their kitchen table when he was too small for his feet to reach the floor, while opposite him, her good pen hissed over the cards and their father made fishing flies in a vice.

He held the watch a moment longer before setting it on the wooden chair by the bed, the one that served as a table for collars and cufflinks. The gold caught the ember-light and shone the colour of a human voice.

Two

The following day Thaniel could not stop thinking about what the proper name for a fear of big machinery was. He couldn't remember, but he had had it when he first came to London. It had been worst at railway crossings beside overground stations, where the steam engines would stop, fuming, ten feet away from people picking their way over the lines. The lake of tracks outside Victoria station was still not his favourite place. There had been dozens of tiny things like that, things that didn't matter until something went wrong, like getting lost, whereupon, catching at thoughts as they did, they made thinking much more difficult than it would have been anywhere else.

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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