Titanium Noir

Title: Titanium Noir (2023)  
Author: Nick Harkaway  
Publisher: Knopf  

Book jacket: A virtuosic mashup of Philip K. Dick and Raymond Chandler by way of Marvel—the story of a detective investigating the murder of a Titan, one of society’s most powerful, medically-enhanced elites.  

Joe says: Titanium Noir is fun-to-read futuristic-ish crime thriller with a compelling and entertaining mystery.

Nick Harkaway builds up a rather successful – and fun-to-read – futuristic-ish crime thriller with Titanium Noir. Harkaway follows the usual crime tropes in following what seems to be an open-and-closed murder investigation. Until it isn’t. And aren’t they all? Harkaway’s protagonist is Cal Sounder, a freelance investigator for the police. He has all of the luck of Philip Marlowe and most of the mouth of Mike Hammer. Fun dude. Harkaway builds the character, the world, and the crime, and lets the reader settle in for something familiar, yet also rather fresh.

The kick of Titanium Noir revolves around the discovery of the wonder-drug T7, which provides the super-wealthy an artificial taste of immortality. This T7 removes sickness, aging, blemishes, and other unwanted proclivities, like listening to Blues Traveller or following Truth social. Recipients are then rebuilt in a new – and giant-sized! – body. These 1%ers of 1%ers are called Titans and make the antics of the Kardashians seem as tame as the Brady Bunch. They are spoiled. They are desired. They are untouchable. Until one of them is murdered. 

Harkaway takes Sounder to the usual places to meet the usual suspects. In this world, everyone wants to be with, be around, or be like a Titan. Cal’s great love, Athena, happens to be one but he doesn’t hold that against her, even when the world seems to be conspiring against him. Through it all, Harkaway’s pace remains fresh. The T7 MacGuffin aside, the story, the mystery, is what matters. Technology is not a contrivance, in fact, that hardly registers. Titanium Noir takes place in a relatively unspecified location at an obtuse period of time. Take away the T7 and Sounder could be assembling his suspects in a post-war tea room reveal or running from Buicks down the shadowy streets of LA. 

Titanium Noir book review by Joe Kucharski

The mystery within is compelling and entertaining and becomes a bold statement for a still-somewhat burgeoning author. Harkaway keeps to the themes of the genre without falling into cliche yet does wrap up the conclusion perhaps too tidy. Of course, you write what you know. And Nick Harkaway, a pseudonym, has struck a writer’s path similar to, yet cleverly enough to hark away from, his father, who possessed one of the best known pseudonyms in all of fiction.  

Titanium Noir is a quick, fun read that refuses to use sci-fi as a literary crutch. Any politics as a metaphor remains subdued as Harkaway opts instead for the all-too common gut punch. Something Cal receives plenty of while the reader enjoys the show. 

Many thanks to Knopf for the digital ARC and the excuse to finally read a Harkaway novel.

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