The Clock Without a Face
The Clock Without a Face already feels like a treasure. Shaped like home plate and made up of 16 cardboard pages, half of which are illustrated, the book is almost ornamental. And because it comes from McSweeney’s, we couldn’t tell if it was a book for kids or simply a book for adults by writers with kidlike enthusiasm. Turns out, it’s both.
Though it’s billed as a “Gus Twintig Mystery” our narrator isn’t the crime solver; he’s the “confidential assistant” to professional private investigator Roy Dodge. The two have been called to an apartment building, where there’s been a robbery: all 12 emerald digits affixed to The Emerald Khroniker, a famously cursed clock belonging to the penthouse occupant, Bevil Ternky. It turns out that each floor of the 13-story building—one apartment per floor—was robbed in succession, so Gus and Dodge make their way down through the building, pledging to solve the crime by the time they reach the lobby.
Each floor features an interrogation by Gus and Dodge of the building’s eccentric characters and a cross-section of the apartments. Like all of the great McSweeney’s books, Clock seamlessly blends the playfulness of the kids’ books we wished we had and the sophistication of the press’s trademark design ingenuity. As a mystery, it’s fun if not challenging, but the kicker comes at the end: Somewhere in the book are clues to the location of 12 actual emerald numbers hidden in the U.S. (handcrafted by jewelry designer Anna Sheffield). We got a tip that there’s one within a fairly close radius of TOC’s offices. But that’s all we’re saying.