Review of London Falling by Paul Cornell – Book 1 of The Shadow Police series

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This is the start of a new series featuring occult wrongdoing in London. So with the likes of Kate Griffin writing the Midnight Mayor series and Ben Aaronovitch’s Peter Grant series, can Paul Cornell’s offering stand up in such company? Hell, yes…

londonfallingDetective Inspector James Quill is about to complete the drugs bust of his career. Then his prize suspect Rob Toshack is murdered in custody. Furious, Quill pursues the investigation, co-opting intelligence analyst Lisa Ross and undercover cops Costain and Sefton. But nothing about Toshack’s murder is normal. Toshack had struck a bargain with a vindictive entity, whose occult powers kept Toshack one step ahead of the law – until his luck ran out. Now, the team must find a ‘suspect’ who can bend space and time and alter memory itself. And it will kill again. Meanwhile, as the group begins to sense London’s ancient magic for themselves – they find they have two choices: panic, or use their new abilities to try and catch this lethal villain…

I have slightly shortened the blurb, but as you can see – this is a classic whodunit with a supernatural twist. As we are pitched right into the middle of the action, Cornell makes us care about each member of his disparate team for completely different reasons. So as the action hurtles forward, with the stakes being steadily raised, we are taken on a roller-coaster ride as Quill, Ross, Costain and Sefton become increasingly emotionally caught up in this particular case. It’s a nifty way of ramping up the narrative tension, without the need for anymore bangs and whistles regarding the Big Bad, which has quite enough already.

Cornell writes up a storm when the team first become aware of the magical landscape in amongst the London streets – I found myself experiencing the horror and terror alongside his protagonists as they find themselves plunged into the supernatural. This book is definitely not for the faint-hearted and if you do have inquisitive young or preteens who enjoy dipping into your reading matter, be aware that the violence and language is graphic.

The other touch I really enjoyed – the group are absolutely floundering as they start to grapple with their magical enemy. Often as not, crime fighters have served some sort of apprenticeship or have a skilled mentor to give useful tips… Not this hapless bunch – they have to fall back on using their basic policing skills to acquire the knowledge they need to help them. Or take big – some might say mad – intuitive leaps in the dark. Sometimes literally… It doesn’t always make for seamless teamwork.

What unfolds is a gripping, visceral tale of ancient wrongs etched into the ether and terrible revenge exacted – and all that stands in its way, is a small group of determined coppers, who are scared, cynical and on the edge of burning out. If you are waiting for the latest Kate Griffin or Ben Aaronovitch – track down London Falling. Better still, the sequel The Severed Streets was launched at Fantasycon at the beginning of September and we bought them both… No prizes for guessing what I’m going to be reading next.
10/10

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