June 1939. With Europe on the brink of another World War, Francis Dempsey and his deaf-mute and shell-shocked brother, Michael, are en route to New York City, masquerading as minor British nobles aboard a luxury ocean liner, having absconded with a small fortune stolen from the IRA. Their destination is the house of their older brother, Martin, a jazz musician. But when Tom Cronin, a retired henchman seeking redemption through a final job, tracks the brothers down, Francis must capitulate to blackmail or have his family suffer fatal consequences.
New York, meanwhile, is suffused with an electric feeling of hope, caught up in the fervor of the World’s Fair that will host King George and Queen Elizabeth, the first time in history a reigning British monarch has set foot on American soil. Over the course of one tumultuous week, THE WORLD OF TOMORROW brims with conmen, politicians, artists, musicians, mobsters, and molls — characters haunted by their pasts and connected by blood, love, and chance. When the befuddled Michael disappears, wandering the streets of Manhattan alone, his only hope may be the mysterious Czech photographer who takes him under her wing. With Michael missing and Francis embroiled in an assassination plot, the brothers’ long-awaited reunion with Martin may be short-lived.
From the smoky, boozy nightclubs of Harlem to the mansions of the wealthy and powerful to the backroom warrens of mobsters on the make, Brendan Mathews brings prewar New York to vivid, pulsing life. The sweeping and intricate storytelling of this remarkable debut is set against the resonant backdrop of an America that blithely hoped it could avoid the war and focus instead on the promise inherent in the slogan of the World’s Fair: a peaceful, prosperous “World of Tomorrow.”