Cover Image: Titanium Noir

Titanium Noir

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Member Reviews

I love a good mystery novel. I also love anything in the genre of noir. The book, Titanium Noir, combines the two beautifully. 

Titanium Noir by Nick Harkaway is a murder mystery that takes place in a futuristic time where society’s elite can be injected with a substance called T7.

The miracle drug, T7, is able to cure whatever ails you, even old age. The drug can increase a person’s lifespan for an extremely long time with just one dose. It increases the recipient’s strength and bone density, but most importantly size.

Cal Sounder, the detective that the police department calls, when they have a “sensitive“ case, is summoned  to help with a murder of a person of interest who is taller than most. To say any more would be giving away plot spoilers.

Titanium Noir drew me into its web of intrigue almost immediately. Cal Sounder is a likable character who does not mince words to find the truth, and speaks plainly to anyone, regardless of social status. I like that. 

I found myself imagining that I was working alongside Nick to dodge every obstacle thrown his way. 

The world that Nick Harkaway built is very believable, reminding me of New York or Chicago. Details like the places to eat add depth and reality. I had a bit of a crush on Cal.

The miracle drug, T7, is my kind of drug. It is able to cure ailments, and extend someone’s lifespan. I wish it was actually available to work its magic, while making the recipient taller. As a 4-foot, 11-inch woman with autoimmune issues, it makes me love this book even more. Oh, the possibilities! Like all drugs, there may be a bit of an addiction side effect. Still…

Cal and the police department work well together. You don’t find that in many noir novels. It makes the characters more believable and not just words on a page - and I like that sense of camaraderie.

The tension that spans the entire book, along with the dark humor in the storytelling keeps you engaged. Plus, everyone is a wisecracker and that made the noir part of my heart happy.
The smokey haze filled rooms, the larger-than- life (literally) corpse, a detective full of angst, love, intrigue, money, drugs and death… This heart-stopping book has all the elements of noir that I love, but with a futuristic twist.

I am hoping that Mr. Harkaway has plans for a sequel to this book. I can’t wait to discover the next chapter in Cal Sounder’s life.
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Another fine novel by Harkaway.  The story is a great blend of sci-fi, gumshoe detective story and romance and was a page turner for me from beginning to end.  The characters will stay with me for a long time and I will be looking at people of great size and wondering “Is that a Titan?”
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This is such a fun read that takes place in a unique setting. The story line definitely kept me guessing. The main character was developed really well. Thank you to NetGalley and the Publisher for an ARC.
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Published by Knopf on May 16, 2023

A hard-boiled crime solver is a standard ingredient in noir fiction. That role in Titanium Noir is played by Cal Sounder. He works in a private capacity to help the police or shady characters investigate crimes. Some of the shady characters are Titans. Not titans of industry, necessarily, although they generally need substantial wealth to become Titans. They are characters who resemble the Titans of Greek mythology.

Titans extend their lifespans with an expensive drug called T7. The drug rejuvenates by reverting cells to their pre-puberty state, then fast forwards the body to adulthood while adding muscle mass and bone density. Each dose adds to a Titan’s size but the treatment creates a risk of memory loss. By the fourth dose, Titans labor to breathe.

Cal visits a crime scene where Roddy Tebbit appears to have shot himself in the head. Roddy is a one-dose Titan, seven-foot-eight and 91 years old despite resembling a hale man of 50. Giles Gatton, the police chief, invites Cal to investigate because Titan deaths tend to be political and the cops want to avoid publicity. On the other hand, Titans often hire Cal because they don’t think the police take their deaths seriously.

Cal doesn’t believe the death is a suicide. When he asks how Roddy, a scientist who doesn’t come from money, could have become a Titan, the answers seem false. Roddy’s past is elusive. He was involved with a woman who works in the kind of club where women entertain without clothing. After Cal wins a cage fight for a chance to interview the woman, she’s killed in an assassination that nearly takes out Cal.

Faced with more questions than answers, Cal suspects that Roddy left behind a secret. Those suspicions are confirmed when two competing Titans — a four-dose giant named Stefan Tonfamecasca and a big guy known as Doublewide — insist that Roddy find the secret and bring it to them. The secret turns out to be stored in a strange place. Cal isn’t sure that either of the Titans should have it — at least not before he reviews the information that Roddy took such trouble to protect.

Nick Harkaway relies on the sarcastic prose and dark atmosphere of noir to tell the story. Substitute underworld figures who are shagging each other’s wives for Titans who extend their lives with T7 and you’d come up with a similar plot. Cal is sort of dating a woman named Athena, whose one-dose mother has a backstory that becomes critical to the plot. Like stories from Greek mythology, family drama informs the story.

Harkaway exploits the classic noir theme of the wealthy versus the rest of us, the privileged class versus the servant class, to make the story relatable to those of us who aren’t privileged. Big guys bullying smaller guys is another theme, with the smaller guy (Cal) managing to use wits to defeat brute force. All of this is entertaining even if the noir sometimes seems forced. Marrying the future to the 1940s (Cal even calls himself a gumshoe) is a contrivance that always seems on the verge of collapsing into silliness. I give Harkaway credit for pulling it off, all the way to an ironic and surprising finish.

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This is a different mystery, sci fi mix, which I enjoyed. My rating 4.5.

Cal is a detective with a specialty in “sensitive” cases that involve Titans. Titans are genetically altered elites who go through a process that makes them larger than normal humans. These people have enough wealth to obtain the medicine, surgery, and treatment that is necessary to survive the transition to giant status. Cal is familiar with the Titans because his ex-girlfriend, Athena is the Titan daughter of the head to the Titan’s, Stefan Tonfamescasca, who discovered the genetic therapy that allows the procedure.

It is very rare to find a dead Titan as they can usually get the treatments necessary to regenerate their bodies. So to find a murdered Titan is remarkable. Cal has been called into the investigation of a death that appears, at first, to be a suicide. But Cal isn’t so quick to accept appearances and he is prepared to dig even if it ruffles the tempers of the highest Titans. Needless to say, Cal soon finds himself facing assassination attempts.

This is a twisty, sci fi murder mystery. It is more complex and intense than a cozy mystery and took attention to follow. I liked Cal’s character with his determination and resistance to Athena’s invitations to become a Titan himself. The interesting world of the Titans and the twists of the mystery kept me glued to the story. I am impressed with the high level or writing and would be interested to read more by this author. I recommend this to readers who like an intense mystery woven with sci fi elements.

Source 3/4/2023 NetGalley.
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Very fun book - definitely Chandler meets PKD.  Snappy dialogue and good plot. Serves as a fantastic homage to the old hard boiled detective novel.  Early running for my favorite book of 2023.
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I had such a fun time with this book! The futuristic sci-fi universe was really unique and interesting and the noir mystery aspect was fun and kept me guessing. The main character was really well developed and complex for such a relatively short book and I loved his voice/personality. And I have to say I do love that quintessential noir bittersweet ending, that almost Pyrrhic victory.
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Fantastic read - it's a noir that plays fair with its mystery and its gumshoe AND creates a fantastical world that that is just close enough to ours to make suspension of disbelief easy (think The Carter Archives by Dan Stout). Gnomon was a great read but a heavy lift; this novel is Nick Harkaway at his Tigerman finest. It's cinematic, engrossing, and original. A strong recommend, especially if you've got a friend that doesn't really dabble in science fiction.
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I have read hardboiled crime novels off and on for most of my life. I think my love for pulp was started with seeing Pulp Fiction in the theater when I was still in high school. It began an obsession with all things pulp. I read the Mammoth Book of Pulp Fiction, and this lead me to so many great authors, particularly Jim Thompson. I loved his stories and I read most of his books in the late 90s (when Vintage Black Lizard released his catalog). Hard Case Crime started publishing new and lost crime novels in 2004, and they had a subscription service, so I had years of getting every one of their crime novels. Pulp fiction, crime novels, noir novels, whatever you want to call them usually center around a clever detective that might have a drinking problem but definitely has problems with the police, even when they are on the squad, have been a part of my life for thirty years. Titanium Noir is a new novel by Nick Harkaway that captures the spirit of the long tradition of the crime novel, with his own twist.

The novel starts with the death of a Roddy Tebbit, a pretty nerdy and neat guy who also happens to be a Titan. Titans are those who have grown big and strong after the use of T7 genetic therapy. T7 and being a Titan equates with the fountain of youth, those who will live for hundreds of years. The side effects are growth, stronger, larger bones, height and strength, and they are hard to murder. It is also known as a therapy for the rich. Tebbit does not present as the type of person who was a candidate for T7 therapy so not only is the investigation about Tebbit’s murder, but it is also about how he was a Titan in the first place. 

Cal Sounder is called into this sensitive case. His character is a homage to a long tradition of hard-boiled, quick-witted detectives. Harkaway does a great job with Cal, molding him into the traditional noir detective: a fast thinker, a bit of a smartass, and a lover of women who also gets beaten to a pulp by those people he is trying to track down, usually more than once. Sounder puts his life on the line more than once to solve this case, and like all paperback detectives, the risks and pain pays off.

Titanium Noir is fast paced, action packed, and fun to read. Even with the genetic modifications aspects thrown in, the story really hums along at a pace that makes it easy and satisfying to read. Most of Harkaway’s novels are long and deeply involved, so at 250 pages, Titanium Noir is a nice change of pace, and definitely a novel worthy of being a starting place for anyone interested in Harkaway’s work.

I received this as an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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What happens when a Titan gets murdered? What is a Titan? Part murder mystery, part science fiction send up, mixed with a dose of literary fiction. If you've read Tigerman, you'll get the gist.
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Folks, I bamboozled myself. A book sauntered its way into my smoke filled office, almost spilling out of its dress. There was a look in its eyes, one of deep need, tinted with a mysterious vengeance. I poured the book and myself a drink. We both needed one. Theirs was for the hard days of the past. Myself, well, I figured hard days lay ahead, so I might as well get started. And that’s when the book laid it all out for me, the case itself. It was hard to pass up, they dressed it up nicely. A lower page count, a page turning narrative inked in compelling prose… how could I refuse? And that’s when I was finally able to peek at the file, Titanium Noir, by Nick Harkaway.

Cal Sounder is a man with a very specific job. Some might say he’s a cop, others may just refer to him as a detective, but really he’s more a medical private eye. He’s only hired whenever a Titan might be involved in a case. A chemically enhanced elite member of society who has forgotten mortality, and grown to eight feet tall, with the mass to match. Only those worthy of the serum (read: friends with the inventor/rights holder), and physical/mental fortitude to survive the process have access. So it’s definitely not good that one of them has been found dead, and Sounder has to mind his footsteps as he rummages through the evidence, lest he trip under the unimpeded footsteps of the very Titans he’s trying to exonerate.

Before I start diving into the nitty gritty, I want to state that my experience with hard-boiled detective novels is very slim. It’s not a dame I tend to dance with, as its reputation precedes it. I find myself flipping my sign to the closed side any time their shadow darkens my frost tinted glass door. That’s not to say a few convinced me to take on their case with a few sob stories here and there. Everyone familiar with this sorry lot has heard The Maltese Falcon’s story, and I perchance have let a few of the more fantastical cats into my office and poured them a stiff drink. So you see, if you’re looking for a detailed rap sheet on Titanium Noir, hoping I’d give the all clear on its intentions, well, I’m just not that well equipped.

But, I believe that since I did follow through, I should warn you that darkness lay ahead, and its shadow swallows what little light chooses to grace this godforsaken city. Sounder is a straight shooter, except for when he isn’t. The man is a real pain in the ass, the kind that just decides to do his job without really digging too deep. Sure he acts all suspicious, and will even lay out the case to you with skepticism, but it always feels like a cynical ploy. I call that hedging one’s bets, and let me tell you, the house always wins. He skulks around, playing the fence as if he hasn’t already made a choice, his gruffness acts a shield for inquiry. What should be a self deprecating honesty comes off as an excuse. Which would really make him interesting if I truly gave a damn about his plight, which he made damn sure I didn’t.

Now Harkaway, that’s Sounder’s biographer mind you, he has a knack for the literary. It adds a bit of a bitter, atmospheric panache to Sounder’s admittedly boring thoughts. It’s not what one might call artful, but it certainly hooked me. Without Harkaway’s colorful rendition of Sounder’s case, the story would be a bit dull. A man amongst the elite is killed, a special investigator is brought in, the case ruffles some feathers and brings to light some old grudges and history amongst the city’s titanic elite. There are dust ups, and they’re all given a flair, but after a while it just starts to wear down on you, or at least it did me. It just leaned a little too casually on the hard stuff for my delicate tastes. The classic down on his luck, fists up against the world, private eye lingo and stream of consciousness just became a chore. Now, any good cop would avoid the paperwork, but Harkaway really added to the case files this time and I don’t get paid overtime. It felt a tad bit stretched, even at its paltry 256 pages.

The saving grace could have been some of more interesting nooks and crannies hidden among the play of shadows. The danger of ossified power structures, controlled by larger than life players who are as close to immortal as one could get. The Titans’ vulnerability hiding within the intimate relations amongst the very people playing at Gods. Sounder could have mapped out the contours of the world, like an ant finding a picnic and making its getaway to bring on the might of the colony. But instead, the man just stayed in his lane and added a few details to the world. But again, he was quite guarded as if the Titans themselves could read his own thoughts.  Sure he made some pretty strategic moves that helped solve the case, but the case never truly revealed anything. Power will do what it can to remain in power, and we must recognize that, maybe even respect it. Bingo. Didn’t need an overloaded case to make that claim.

Now I’ve played coy, but really I did not have a good time with this book, even though I found myself entertained at its clever employment of drudgery. Sure there is some tragedy involved, but there are also just some plain old ugly holdovers from the genre. The sexism isn’t rampant, but pulls the spotlight to itself in weird ways. It seems to try to add a little critique to the genre, while nearly doubling down on some of its misogynistic tendencies. It’s not egregious, but it’s one of those things that once you see it, it’s hard to trick the light into hiding it again. The red herrings are few, and the story tries to keep itself moving by providing weird unrelated action sequences. These sequences serve two main purposes, to build out the world, and to make Sounder look cool, collected and worthy of survival within this hellscape. They aren’t particularly eye opening, and only made me less sympathetic to Sounder’s journey. Ultimately, it just felt like wasted potential from someone who has some pretty good writing chops and strong genre sensibilities. You might find some joy in reading the book as a character piece of the man named Cal Sounder, but even still, you might be able to guess where it’s headed. For me, it’s time to hang my hat and take a much needed vacation, maybe quit the drink for a little while.

Rating: Titanium Noir – 4.0/10

An ARC of this book was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The thoughts on this book are my own.
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Love the combination of scifi and the grimey noir detective vibe! I love how consistent the narrator was and the events that unfolded were engaging. I would recommend to those who love mystery series but with a little bit of future dystopia element!
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This is a really good futuristic special affiliation detective story along the lines of Altered Carbon. Here though, the special drug formula remade people are uber wealthy called then Titans after transformation. These people are literally regenerated into giants due to the process. Cal is our liaison consultant to the police guy, somewhat jaded, on the edge & working with cops on special cases concerning Titans. And with a mouth & personality where many of them would like to smash him in the face, so tones of old school noir everyone loves. I adore the way that the author writes him & a notable woud have to be this line here:" "you can sleep on the couch" like I was expecting top & tail with them. " this is a fast paced enjoyable thriller.
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In the nearish future, science has created true giants. Typically financial or political giants can reverse the aging process but a side effect is extreme growth in body mass - not everyone sees this a negative side effect. They are the new untouchables and when a crime is committed involving one of these Titans, Cal Sounder is called in. He is a private detective of sorts who consults often with the local police. A Titan, who doesn't fit the typical Titan profile, Sounder finds himself tumbling down the rabbit hole of secrets that only power can cover up.

Titanium Noir is billed as "a virtuosic mash-up of Philip K. Dick and Raymond Chandler by way of Marvel". While I've not read Raymond Chandler, I agree with the rest of the statement. I also saw influences of Michael Chabon - my post-apocalyptic book club recently read The Yiddish Policeman's Union so that was fresh in my mind. 

This wasn't my typical read. I'm also in a mystery book club and we have been trying different subgenres and I was drawn to the Noir in the title. I'm not sure I particularly like the grittiness of the noir genre but I'm sampling different types to see if it grows on me.

Titanium Noir definitely has a dark, seedy quality - made me think of Gotham. But there seemed to be a gleam of metallic underneath.

I liked Cal Sounder. He is the typical noir protagonist - he has his own moral code as he works in the gray areas of society. While he isn't afraid to dabble on the illegal side of things he is overall a good guy - he's just trying to find justice any way he can.

The mystery was okay. I didn't really get invested in the storyline. There seemed to be missed opportunities for building suspense. There are a lot of unknowns and a few twists, but I felt like I was outside the story and I like to be pulled into the story. I think this is what I don't like about noir - there is little emotional connection to the story.

Overall, it was well-written and enjoyable. If you are a fan of noir then you will love this novel. It did set up things for a continued series, but easily this could be a stand-alone novel. 

My review is published at Girl Who Reads -
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A Titan has been murdered, and that almost never happens. Titans are genetically enhanced humans who extend their lives with successive enhancements, becoming larger each time. (It’s a little disappointing that they don’t seem to become smarter, more creative or more useful human beings, but that would be a different book.) Cal Sounder has been called to assist the police investigation. His role is complicated by the fact that his ex-girlfriend is a Titan and her father is a big deal in Titan world. The book is fast paced and there is a really trippy twist to the plot.

I enjoy the combination of science fiction with noir, but this book was less noir than I was expecting (and when you compare a book to Philip K Dick, you need to get more weird). My opinion was probably influenced by the fact that I listened to the audiobook and the narrator didn’t have the combination of ennui and grit usually found in the genre. To be fair, the character of Sounder was also pretty lackluster as written. However, there is room at the end of the book for a sequel and it’s possible that he could become more interesting. 

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.
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When a university professor who had received life extending treatments that have side effects making the recipient bigger and stronger Cal Sounder is called in to help the police. Navigating his way through a seamy underworld of crime and corruption as well as through the high society of people wealthy enough to become giants living long beyond the human life span Cal uses his street smarts and acute reasoning skills to discover who was involved and why. I would definitely recommend it to readers of Drunk on All Your Strange New Words by Eddie Robson and The Spare Man by Mary Robinette Kowal who like mystery mixed with science fiction involving intelligent, astute sleuths.

It is a great combination of good old fashioned noir and bio science fiction.
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Titanium Noir was the first novel I'd read by Nick Harkaway, and I'll definitely be reading more. It's perfection. A noir mystery in a dystopian future, it follows investigator Cal as he looks into the death of a Titan--the nickname given to the fabulously wealthy and nearly immortal. It reminded me in all the good ways of Altered Carbon, but it's fresh and original and beautiful. I can't recommend it enough.
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Many thanks to NetGalley, Knopf, Pantheon, Vintage, and Anchor for providing me with an eARC of Titanium Noir in exchange for my honest review!

I was quite intrigued by the premise's blending of sci-fi and noir fiction, but this turned out to be the kind of book that I'm feeling very tepid towards. It's too bad, because the worldbuilding that this creates around the Titans and the gritty atmosphere it sets up do engage me. But I just couldn't get all that invested in the story and the characters. It didn't help that the complicated plotting made it somewhat difficult for me to keep track of what's happening (if you were to ask me to describe the plot beats, I wouldn't be able to tell you half of them). That being said, I was interested enough by the potential here that I'd be up for checking out more of Nick Harkaway's work.

Overall, I'm officially rating Titanium Noir 2.5 out of 5 stars, with 2 stars being the rounded-down score.
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This intriguing, highly original, grabbing sci-fi murder mystery plunges you into a future Earth where a pharma company has come up with the ultimate fountain-of-youth genetic therapy shot, which naturally only can be afforded by billionaires or close relatives of the CEO founder. These souped-up, bulked-up, towering humans can live for centuries, and even longer with additional shots. They’re keeping the number of so-called Titans low, to ensure maximum power, maximum wealth accumulation, and elitism, and have come to look at the rest of humanity as mere mortals of little worth or consequence.

Bridging the world of the uber-Titans and the rest of humanity comes Cal Sounder, a private investigator working with the police on criminal incidents that involve Titans. Cal has managed to work in both worlds due to his long-standing girlfriend Athena, a daughter of the Tonfamecasca family who founded the T7 therapy and who got turned into a Titan herself to keep her from dying.

The novel opens with a dead Titan lying in his apartment in a pool of blood, and Cal assigned to figure out just what the heck could possibly have happened that resulted in a Titan murder. Cal has to summon up all his connections across the city along with all his wits to start making connections. He also unexpectently finds himself in mortal danger due to his investigation. With humor, amazing characterizations, and unexpected plot twists, this book is fantastic. 

So hoping that Harkaway comes up with new challenges for Cal to tackle in future sequences! 

Thanks to Knopf and Netgalley for an advanced reader’s copy of this book.
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Titanium Noir reminded me of a legal thriller I enjoyed a few months ago, so I was eager to give this one a read. This follows a specialized detective who only deals with cases involving individuals called Titans, very wealthy people who can afford a certain treatment that will make them bigger, stronger, and live longer. In this one, a Titan has been murdered and it’s Cal’s job to figure out who killed him. This leads him all over the city and straight into a ghost story that may or may not be true, as well as some history of how Titans came to be.

Honestly, I think the idea of this story was more interesting than the actual execution. I liked Cal. He was a fantastic character to follow with a really fun voice. He’s very much a rough and tumble kind of guy, but there was a softer side to him that I liked when it came out. It made him feel a little more human. I also really liked how the Titans were characterized. I still can’t really fathom how big these Titans must have been, but the ones Cal came across were interesting, from the giant of a man who holds all the power to the one who was murdered who had an interesting history. I liked that there were pros and cons to the procedure, and that there’s always a cost. At the beginning of the story, I was really engaged with what was going on and trying to figure out who killed the Titan. I loved the noir feel to it, and I think I would have liked this more if it hadn’t derailed a bit.

At some point in the second half, Cal is told a version of a ghost story. It’s a story of how the Titan gene was discovered. Then he’s told another version. And I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s another one I’m forgetting about. I feel like he went from finding the Titan’s killer to figuring out the truth behind the ghost story. It was disappointing and I found the story dragged from that point on. I was no longer invested in who killed the Titan, which was the primary reason why I wanted to read this, because no one else felt interested until the very end.

Titanium Noir really took the noir-style and held tight to it. I loved the feel of the story, but the story itself felt like it couldn’t compare with the main character. Actually, I felt like the story failed him because Cal could have been incredible in an incredible story. Instead, I felt like he spent part of the story just chasing this ghost story and another part just chasing his tail, because he only felt like he was going in circles that only sometimes changed direction.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for a review copy. All opinions expressed are my own.
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