The Gargoyle HuntersThe Gargoyle Hunters is a magnificently original debut novel from architectural aficionado and New York native John Freeman Gill.

An unorthodox upbringing only seems odd to those on the outside: you don’t adapt to such an upbringing-you survive it; sometimes you thrive in it. Thirteen-year-old Griffin Watts’ parents split a long time ago, so the emotional absence of Griffin’s mother and the real absence of Griffin’s father, broken by random and infrequent visits, isn’t weird or unusual to Griffin: it’s what he knows. But Griffin craves for the affection and approval of his father and, as the story unfolds, we learn he’s willing to go to almost any length to get it. His father’s lofty and respectable ambitions to save the quickly disappearing architectural gems of New York’s skyline during the heavy building re-entrenchment in the name of progress during the mid-’70’s had moved well into obsession long before Griffin entered the fray. As Griffin joins his father on weekly quests searching for the intangible, he’s drawn deeper and deeper into his father’s mysterious web of ill-gotten architectural gain.

With unrelenting prose and a wicked wit, Gill weaves a unique coming of age story that packs a heavy wallop. New York City circa 1974 becomes a living, breathing organism, as much a character as our teenage hero. Griffin’s self-deprecating manner is hard to resist, presenting a precocious nature I found myself rooting for early and often. “It’s temping to try to force the past to behave in the retelling, to make it lie down flat for once. But some memories, usually those involving my casual destructiveness, stand up like a cowlick.” Wry, tight, funny and unique: Griffin and John Freeman Gill at their best.

I highly recommend this one.