Hodder, out October 31
Low Town is like a powder keg, and the Warden has to decide whether it’s in his interests to dampen it down – or light the fuse…
For those who have followed events in Low Town over the past couple of books, there is a certain inevitability about what happens in the pages of She Who Waits. Polansky jumps forward a few years from the end of Tomorrow, The Killing to show us a Low Town that is starting to slip away from the Warden’s control: he’s been spinning the plates for so long that at some point, one of them is going to crash to the floor.
The book is filled with flashbacks which explain the relationship between the Warden and the quasi-police force, Black House, run by the Old Man, and finally we understand the almost co-dependent relationship between them. We also discover what it was that drove a wedge between the Old Man and his protégé, and exactly why the Warden is both feared and, reluctantly, respected by his former colleagues.
The flashbacks also serve a secondary purpose, counterpointing the Warden’s actions in the present as two sides plan to go to war, and he is faced with difficult negotiations. The Warden has few friends but he shows a fierce loyalty to them (even if he won’t admit it to himself), which of course can put them in danger when his various enemies come for him. Throughout the novel, there are dark mirrorings of events in past and present, with the Warden (and indeed the Old Man) forgetting the old maxim about people failing to learn the lessons of history.
Polansky’s writing has got sharper with each novel, and I would love to see a contemporary detective book from him. This is a fitting conclusion to a thoroughly enjoyable trilogy, its atmosphere laden with dread and doom yet still holding out a faint ray of hope.
Verdict: A magnificent work of fantasy noir. 8/10
Read our review of The Straight Razor Cure here
and Tomorrow, The Killing here