Review: The Watchmaker of Filigree Street, Natasha Pulley

My concerns going into The Watchmaker of Filigree Street were, one, that it would be too twee, and two, that I didn’t care much about solving a mysterious bombing at Victorian Scotland Yard by Irish freedom fighters. Happily for my peace of mind, though it starts off seeming like a rather twee mystery about a bombing at Victorian Scotland yard by Irish freedom fighters, that really isn’t what the book is at all.

Watchmaker of Filigree Street

Our hero, Thaniel Steepleton, comes home from a difficult day at the telegraph office (bomb threat, something something) to find that his flat has been broken into, the dishes carefully washed, and an elegant and expensive gold watch left on his pillow. When the watch later saves his life from an Irish terrorist bombing, he goes in search of the watchmaker, a lonely and courteous Japanese man called Keita Mori.

“But Jenny that sounds like it is about solving a bombing!” I know, I know. My primary complaint about the book is that what it is about is much more interesting (to me) and fun (for me) than a bombing mystery, but it’s set up in such a way that it’s clearly meant as a surprise for the reader. So even though I don’t care about spoilers, I thought you might. If you ask me in the comments, I’ll tell you what the thing is.

Without spoiling anything, I’ll just say that the bulk of the book is dedicated to Thaniel and the other characters figuring out what Keita Mori’s whole deal is, and then deciding how they feel about it. Thaniel is fairly sanguine; his new friend Grace, a bluestocking who must inconveniently get herself married pronto, does not care for it. I, the reader, waffled back and forth a bit and still felt unsure, at the close of the book, whether I was morally comfortable with how Mori was managing the world he lives in. Big ups to Pulley for managing a well-plotted (if slightly slow to start) book that also engages with interesting moral issues.

A minor gripe: To this fan of romance novels, Grace seemed to be filling a role in The Watchmaker of Filigree Street that is, let’s say, not my favorite romance trope. Get at me in the comments and we can talk more about it!

  • Jeanne

    “the dishes watched…” is this a typo or a more interesting situation than I was anticipating, given your introduction?

    • Ahahahaha, I am sorry, that is a typo. I typed “watch” too many times and my fingers got used to it.

  • I have this book at home and will try to read this summer so we can talk. I’m intrigued!

    • Yes, do! If by then I can still remember what happens. :p I’m leaving myself a little note here that I could not think of an alternative to living the way Mori chooses to if I were in his situation; but nevertheless I was not completely thrilled with his way of doing it (I was alive to Grace’s objections).

  • Amanda

    This has been on my list forever it feels like. I need to get it on hold at the lib!

    • I know, right? I feel like I’ve been hearing about it forever, and yet it still was totally different to what I expected. In a good way!

  • Meaghan Walsh Gerard

    LOVED this book and I can’t want for her next one. Glad you read it even though the initial description wasn’t your thing. I wish I knew Mori in real life. 🙂

  • I was also not sure about this – but you intrigue me greatly! I think I have to at least give it a try.

  • Agreed! I really enjoyed this one, but it’s best to go into it without knowing too much.

    Are you planning to read her book coming out this summer?

  • It does sound twee. But I am intrigued by the Japanese watchmaker.

  • Charlie

    If the book sounds average or dull otherwise and the surprise could change all that, it’s good to know. (Or rather half-spoiler here, because you’ve said there’s something but not what it is.) I kind of want to know about it but you’ve made me want to read the book!

  • Kristen M.

    I totally quit this one rather early on because I couldn’t stand the nickname Thaniel (which did not seem authentic to the period at all and I couldn’t find anyone called that, well, EVER) and something about Grace going into the library sneakily and then shouting? I can’t remember exactly but I was like “what the hell? why would she shout if she was in disguise, etc.”. I must have been super cranky at the time because that was enough to make me quit it for good. Pulley has a new book out soon too that I’m sure everyone will read. 😛

  • Alley

    Alright I am INTRIGUED. I like the idea of mysteries but I think I like the idea of the mystery of WHAT IS THIS BOOK ACTUALLY ABOUT based on your review. So hey, well done there.

  • Annabel Gaskell

    I really enjoyed this book and I’ve just got a proof of her new one which sounds both different and the same. Looking forward to it.