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Cornell, Paul - 'London Falling'
Paperback: 400 pages (Dec. 2012) Publisher: Tor ISBN: 0230763219

It's New Year's Eve and Rob Toshack, undisputed king of the London's underworld, is leading his lieutenants on a seemingly random hunt around London, ransacking abandoned houses. Along for the ride are two undercover cops, Costain and Sefton. Costain has fully adopted the gangster lifestyle of guns and coke. Sefton is just acting the part.

The night ends in the chaos of a police raid on Toshack's HQ and the crime lord in custody - until he explodes all over an interview room (and his interviewer, the traditional copper DI Quill).

In the aftermath of this shocking event, Costain and Sefton are assigned to a small group led by Quill and supported by intelligence officer Lisa Ross. Their mission is to discover why Toshack died - and more importantly how.

The new team finds a whole different order of villainy lay behind Toshack's seemingly unassailable position in organised crime when Ross's research skills lead them to the lair of Mora Losley, a bona-fide serial-killing witch with a trail of bodies behind her - gangsters, footballers, and children.

Reduced to a position of almost complete helplessness in the face of a powerful supernatural enemy, the team resorts to good old-fashioned police methods to catch their perp, creating the world's weirdest incident board in the process.

'Almost helpless', because in their first encounter with Mora the team gains the ability to see supernatural London in all its hidden grotesquerie.

The crime scene didn't look like a normal house any longer. It was a haunted negative of a building, with black eyes that were looking into Sefton, challenging him, making him think that, at any second, he'd glimpse something terrible up there. "The witch's house," he said. And this time he wasn't making jokes about fairy-tales.

So: LONDON FALLING is police-procedural-cum-urban-fantasy. A book with the straplines 'Only they can see the evil' and 'A Shadow Police novel' sets out to be read as a guilty pleasure, and it delivers that in shovelfuls.

The whole feels very much like a TV show, and I wasn't too surprised to discover it was inspired by a concept pitched to the BBC at one point. Paul Cornell writes for Doctor Who (his episodes include the brilliant 'Human Nature' and 'Family of Blood') but this has more of the air of Who's spin-off series Torchwood: a bit more urban, adult, more of an ensemble piece, conflicted characters coming together, and lots of action. There is also, unexpectedly for me, a genuinely moving scene at the end - an emotional reunion.

Not one for the traditionalist crime fan, but it's fun seeing how far Quill's team can push their training and dogged police mentality in the face of the unknown.

Rich Westwood, England
February 2013

Rich blogs at
Past Offences.

More European crime fiction reviews can be found on the Reviews page.

last updated 31/01/2013 15:34