Author: Paul Cornell
Publisher: Tor Books, April 16, 2013
Format: Hardcover and eBook, 416 pages
Price: $24.99 (print)
ISBN: 9780765330277 (print)
Review copy: Purchased by Melanie
Police officers Quill, Costain, Sefton, and Ross know the worst of London—or they think they do. While investigating a mobster's mysterious death, they come into contact with a strange artifact and accidentally develop the Sight. Suddenly they can see the true evil haunting London’s streets.
Armed with police instincts and procedures, the four officers take on the otherworldly creatures secretly prowling London. Football lore and the tragic history of a Tudor queen become entwined in their pursuit of an age-old witch with a penchant for child sacrifice. But when London’s monsters become aware of their meddling, the officers must decide what they are willing to sacrifice to clean up their city.
London Falling starts out as a traditional police thriller with Detective James Quill leading the investigation and subsequent arrest of the notorious drug lord, Toshack. Just when he thinks he is going to wrap up the case of his career his world is turned upside down when Toshack mysteriously dies while in police custody (in a most gruesome fashion, I might add). It is at this point that the story takes a turn from traditional thriller to supernaturally, weird and crazy with a purely evil antagonist. Quill and his team uncovers something far more evil than Toshack and it’s a race against time to save London, his colleagues and himself from an evil power the likes he has never come across before.
Like the action in the story Cornell keeps a frenetic pace with the story swapping between the different characters. I felt it was written more like the script for TV rather than as a novel with subtext and inference playing heavily in the interaction between characters. I found it a bit difficult to get into the story at first due to the number of police acronyms that Cornell used but found a glossary at the back of the book after I had finished reading it! That is the problem with ebooks as useful things like glossaries hide at the back and I don’t find them until the end. I think that maybe I would have engaged a bit earlier had I found the glossary sooner. However, once I got to grips with the police ‘talk’ and as the plot progressed I soon became completely engrossed in the story and all its dysfunctional characters. Cornell doesn’t just make the dialogue authentic from a police perspective he also uses local colloquialisms. As a non-native Londoner I always enjoy books that are based here but I wonder how easily others pick up the local jargon and slang that Cornell litters throughout the story. I thought the plot was unique and much more grisly than I was expecting and Mora Losely was chilling and completely evil. The backdrop to how she came to be a witch was interesting and the fact that she was a serial killing West Ham fan was quite amusing in its own right.My husband is a West Ham fan and while I am a football widow from August to May I think even the most ardent fan would draw the line at the atrocities that Mora did to support her team.
Cornell develops his characters through POV chapters and uses this technique to create a substantive backstory for each one. However, I couldn’t really connect with any of them despite having a full and rich background for each. I think this was down to the pace of the story, the characterization and the fact there were four lead characters to keep track of.I thought it was a bit unusual, although not in a bad way, to have so many lead characters that each had equal time dedicated to their lives and their backstory. I found that I was spending as much time keeping their stories straight as I was following the main plot and this distracted me somewhat from what was happening in the overall. It is however, a testament to Cornell’s story telling ability in that he can intertwine the four broken and fractured lives of his main characters with a nail biting plot. Cornell devises a unique, interesting plot and sets the scene for future novels in the series.
While Cornell is an accomplished writer in other genres and mediums this is his first urban fantasy novel and demonstrates his imagination and creativity. While I really enjoyed London Falling (as much as you can enjoy reading about a serial killer) I didn’t love it. I think that now that I have come to understand the characters and their motivation through this novel that I will enjoy subsequent books more. If you are a fan of murder mysteries and like the supernatural element then I urge you to give London Falling a go.