Intrigued? Let’s find out more in a sneaky extract…
SNOW IS FALLING on the city of Prague.
Soft white against a sharp black skyline, it dances around the castle spires and wisps past the patient statues of the church of St. Nicholas. It flurries over fast-food restaurants’ glowing signs, drifts down on cobblestones, tarmac and tramlines. Old women in headscarves shiver and street vendors selling hot sausages stamp their feet in Wenceslas Square. Bleary young tourists’ teeth chatter outside bars in the Old Town.
A tall man and a small girl stalk through the snow. The man wears a long black coat and a homburg hat. He clutches a cane. The girl’s black coat reaches her ankles, where purple and-black-striped socks disappear inside heavy black boots. She looks nine or ten, with a pale, round face framed by long black hair.
They cut briskly across the Old Town Square: past grumbling workmen struggling to erect a huge, eighty-foot Christmas tree; past the house where a famous writer lived an unhappy life long ago; past an ancient cemetery crammed with graves like a smashed mouth filled with broken teeth.
For each of the man’s long strides, the girl must take three, yet she easily matches his angry pace. The city grows older around them as they walk. The light is fading, the day turning blue beneath a heavy slate sky. The snow is beginning to lie. It crumps under their feet. It frosts her hair like icing sugar. It gathers in the nooks and crannies of the strange metal straps that encase each of his boot-heels like heavy surgical supports.
They come eventually to a narrow street, barely more than an alley between ageing buildings, dark, save for a single yellowy light burning in a shop window bearing a sign painted in cheerful red:
B e c k m a n ’ s T o y s
Behind the words, heavy red curtains frame a dusty display. Monkeys wearing fez hats brandish cymbals. Ventriloquists’ dummies leer secret smiles at blushing Victorian dolls. Black bats hang from black threads alongside ducks with propellers on their heads and wooden policemen with bright red noses. Machine guns and ray guns, farting cushions, furry spiders and fake bloody fingers.
A line of robots marches through this chaos. Tiny cowboys and cavalrymen battle rubber dinosaurs at the feet of fat tin spaceships.
The man in the long black coat pushes open the door, ushering the girl in ahead. A bell actually rings, a pleasing old sound of polished brass in the musty dim as they step inside. Around them, the little shop is a cluttered cosmos of toys. Squadrons of fighter planes and hot air balloons swarm the ceiling. Sailboats and rocket ships patrol shelves. Teddy bears are crammed into corners with rocking horses and dogs on wheels. Bright things new and old, of plastic, lead and wood, fake fur and cheap metal.
When they are certain there is no one else in the shop, the girl flips the sign from open to closed. Snapping the lock, she stands with her back to the door and folds her arms.
The man strides to the counter, heading on towards the back room, when a figure emerges from in there, pushing through the rattling hanging beads holding scissors and a roll of brown tape. A small man with severely cropped grey hair and big, round glasses, thick lenses reflecting the light, shabbily dressed but for an incongruously bright-yellow-with-black-polka-dots silk scarf knotted at his throat. A torn-off strip of brown tape hangs from the end of his nose.
“Snow is falling,” this little Beckman sings in a high burble, still frowning down at the tape in his hands. “Christmas is coming—”
Looking up to blink happily at his visitors, he stops abruptly.
Okay, yes. More Please!
That was exciting, BUT what is Monstrous Devices about? I hear you ask. Well, here’s the blurb:
When twelve-year-old Alex receives an old tin robot in the post, the note from his grandfather reads: “This one is special”. But as strange events start occurring around him, it doesn’t take Alex long to suspect that the small toy is more than special – it might also be deadly.
Just as things are getting out of hand, Alex’s grandfather arrives, whisking him away into a world of strange, macabre magic. From Paris to Prague, they flee across snowy Europe in a quest to unravel the riddle of the little robot. Will Alex work out the robot’s secrets before it falls into the wrong, wicked hands?
Who is behind this work of creepy tin-robot genius?
Damien Love was born in Scotland and lives in Glasgow, where, even as you read these words, it is raining. He is the author of several books on film and filmmakers, and is the TV critic for Scotland’s broadsheet, the Sunday Herald. He has the ability to talk to cats, but there is no evidence that they understand him.
I still want to know MORE!
Understandable. In which case, hop on over to all the other blogs on the tour and see what they have to share on our journey across Europe! Yes, yes there are killer toy robots, but it’s okay… there’s also cake.
Cake makes everything better.
Hey! Guess what? There’s MORE!
Not only is Monstrous Devices being released in paperback on 1st April but the second book, The Shadow Arts is coming out in hardback on 20th May as well!! So keep an eye out for the second tour to continue the adventure.
Assuming the tin robot doesn’t get you, I guess…