Tom Doyle’s first novel, American Craftsmen (2014), is action-packed and inventive stuff: a sort of urban fantasy technothriller that explores a secret history of the American security apparatus. The primary protagonist is Dale Morton, the latest in a long line of Mortons who use their “craft” (witchcraft, essentially) to protect the country. When a mission goes wrong in Iraq, Morton finds himself cursed, which turns out to be the inciting incident in a devious plot to overthrow the government. Back home, with the help of new Persian-American girlfriend Scherie and a few dead relatives, Morton goes rogue to counter the threat.
It’s a kinetic adventure full of blazing Hollywood action and eyeball-kicky sourcery. The world-building is rich and involved, infused with history – appropriately read over the 4th of July weekend! – and the writing style is full of rock-and-roll energy and clever turns of phrase. That said, I found myself one step removed from full immersion; I came away thinking that while Doyle may have known the rules of his world and the causalities of his plot intimately, they weren’t entirely coming across in the flow of narrative. Morton’s passages in particular are busy with information, but the rush of detail often obscured the big picture. I’m not sure this is Doyle at his absolute best, but his energetic voice and fertile imagination go a long way, and it makes for a uniquely inventive debut.