Nick Harkaway, "Titanium Noir" (Knopf, 2023)


According to Merriam-Webster, noir is “crime fiction featuring hard-boiled, cynical characters and bleak, sleazy settings.” The Cambridge Dictionary says noir shows “the world as being unpleasant, strange, or cruel.” Nick Harkaway new novel Titanium Noir (Knopf, 2023) has all that but with a twist—rather than the fedora-wearing detective hired by a woman who'd just as soon stab you in the back as love you, the first-person narrator is P.I. Cal Sounder, hired by the police to help investigate the murder of a 7’8”, 91-year-old man who by all rights could have lived several more centuries.

Sounder’s specialty is investigating crimes against Titans, the one percenters among one percenters, whose access to an exclusive medical treatment known as Titanium 7 enlarges both their bodies and their lifespans.

The story is set hundreds of years in the future, when such miracle treatments become possible, but the book also sends roots into the past. The murder weapon, for instance, is a .22 Derringer, a small handgun not too different from the weapon used to assassinate Abraham Lincoln.

“Killing someone with a gun is noir. Every poster of a noir movie is someone with a gun, whether it's a shadow with a revolver or a kind of Rico Bandello in Little Caesar. The gun is bound up with noir and vice versa,” Harkaway says.

Nick Harkaway is the pen name of Nicholas Cornwell. As Harkaway, he is the author of the novels The Gone-Away World, Angelmaker (which was nominated for the 2013 Arthur C. Clarke award), Tigerman, Gnomon; and the non-fiction The Blind Giant: Being Human in a Digital World. He has also written two novels under the pseudonym Aidan Truhen. His father wrote under the pen name John le Carré.

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