A hurricane sweeps off the Gulf of Mexico and in, the back-country of Alabama, assembles a passenger jet out of old bean-cans and junkyard waste. An eccentric mathematician - last heard of investigating the physics of free will and ranting about the devil - vanishes in the French Pyrenees. And the thuggish operatives of a multinational arms conglomerate are closing in on Alex Smart - a harmless Cambridge postgraduate who has set off with hope in his heart and a ring in his pocket to ask his American girlfriend to marry him.
At the Directorate of the Extremely Improbable - an organisation so secret that many of its operatives aren't 100 per cent sure it exists -- Red Queen takes an interest. What ensues is a chaotic chase across an imaginary America, haunted by madness, murder, mistaken identity, and a very large number of unhealthy but delicious snacks. The Coincidence Engine exists. And it has started to work.
The Coincidence Engine is consistently engaging - one of the most enjoyable, entertaining debut novels you'll come across for ages.
Any book that opens with a hurricane miraculously assembling a working Boeing 737 from old cans and metal scraps in the backwoods of Alabama requires a suspension of belief. The joyfully crafted chaos of Leith's fiction debut (after You Talkin' to Me?) will appeal to adventurous readers. Leith's characters seem dubious as to their mission secret agent "Bree thought: what a mess. None of this made any sense." However, Leith can and should be forgiven, for while the book's plot is driven by what some might consider metaphysical nonsense, his sharply drawn characters, well-written dialogue, and compelling philosophical ruminations are smart and funny. Rumor has it that a reclusive genius named Banacharski has invented something variously called a "coincidence engine," a "coincidence machine," and a "probability bomb," which has the potential to affect real-world probability. Understandably, a lot of interesting characters would like to get their hands on it. Bree and her "apsychotic" partner, Jones ("My doctor told me to explain it this way: I don't have an imagination.") agents of the Directorate of the Extremely Improbable ,are on the case, as well as nefarious arms manufacturers. Both groups suspect British postgrad Alex Smart, who is en route to San Francisco to propose to his girlfriend, of possessing the machine, though Alex maintains his innocence. Leith's strange machine is sure to delight and confound.