Review: The Severed Streets

severed-streetsby Paul Cornell

Tor, out now; paperback out February 26, 2015

As London starts to fall apart, only James Quinn and his Sighted police team may be able to stop an ancient evil from resurrecting…

Paul Cornell’s follow-up to his excellent urban crime thriller London Falling doesn’t disappoint. Everything you need to be reminded of from that first book is skilfully presented in the earlier chapters as the story heads off in a new direction. Loose ends from London Falling are dealt with to an extent, but it’s clear that Cornell has a game plan in mind for Quinn and the team, and we’re not spoon-fed answers too quickly.

As part of their investigation into the unnatural – and seemingly impossible – murder of a Liberal Democrat MP, the team run into an expert on London’s history, particularly its connections to the supernatural. It’s Neil Gaiman (and if you’re reading this site, he shouldn’t need any introduction) who makes various appearances through the story, sometimes in ways which may well surprise you. When I heard Cornell was using a genuine person to provide information on London’s past to the team, my immediate thought was that it would be Christopher Fowler, whose Bryant & May stories incorporate so much arcane lore, but Gaiman comes with a certain amount of reputation which plays into the way he’s portrayed here.

The police procedural side of the story inevitably has to bend normal routine, given the gifts of Quinn’s team and what they’re looking into, but his coppers never fail to be human, prone to their own hopes and fears. I wasn’t as convinced by the portrayal of some of the other security organisations – the only part of the book which felt out of kilter.

The book is very much of our time: the Lib Dem MP is moaning about the Coalition, there’s a threat of strike action by public services, but it’s unlikely to link the story too inexorably to a specific date – readers of long-running series tend to be forgiving about such things. And hopefully this is just the second in the sequence: a lot of the team end up in places at the conclusion of the story that they would rather not be, and how they deal with those elements long term will be fascinating to read.

Verdict: With a killer final line (which won’t make sense if you just skip to it!) this is another great contribution to UK urban fantasy. 8/10

Paul Simpson

Click here to order The Severed Streets in hardback from Amazon.co.uk
or click here to order it in paperback

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