Saturday, July 19, 2014

Review: The Severed Streets by Paul Cornell

The Severed Streets
Author:  Paul Cornell
Series:  Shadow Police 2
Publisher:  Tor Books, May 20, 2014
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 416 pages
List Price:  $26.99 (print)
ISBN:   9780765330284 (print)
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher via NetGalley

Desperate to find a case to justify the team's existence, with budget cuts and a police strike on the horizon, Quill thinks he's struck gold when a cabinet minister is murdered by an assailant who wasn't seen getting in or out of his limo. A second murder, that of the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, presents a crime scene with a message...identical to that left by the original Jack the Ripper.

The new Ripper seems to have changed the MO of the old completely: he's only killing rich white men. The inquiry into just what this supernatural menace is takes Quill and his team into the corridors of power at Whitehall, to meetings with MI5, or 'the funny people' as the Met call them, and into the London occult underworld. They go undercover to a pub with a regular evening that caters to that clientele, and to an auction of objects of power at the Tate Modern.

Meanwhile, in Paul Cornell's The Severed Streets, the Ripper keeps on killing and finally the pattern of those killings gives Quill's team clues towards who's really doing this....

Melanie's Thoughts

The second book in the Shadow Police series, The Severed Streets starts not long after the horrific events of book 1 - London Falling. Cornell starts the story with a nice gory murder. This time a politician is viciously murdered in the back of his limousine in the midst of a political demonstration. The police believe they have the killer in custody until the death count starts to rise. It's not long before Detective Inspector James Quill and his team of paranormally skilled police are called in to solve case. All clues seem to lead towards the famous killer, Jack the Ripper coming back from the dead and committing the murders. Things are never as they seem. With the help of their new abilities, The Rat King and a guest appearance by the author Neil Gaiman the team have very little time to to save themselves and perhaps all of London in the process.

For me, The Severed Streets is a much more accessible read. There isn't as much police terminology to get my head around as in book 1. The characters were a bit one dimensional in London Falling which made them very difficult to emphasize with.  By book 2 they are much more developed as they had their experiences from the previous book plus they are a much more cohesive team which made them fuller and richer characters to read about. I actually cared what happened to them (well most of them). Cornell also has a very effective method for re-introducing us to his lead characters.  Most authors just re-hash events from the previous books in order to remind the reader of their characters whereas Cornell has Quill remind us what happened to each character as they enter the office for work. Cornell uses Quill's inner dialogue to describe a bit about each character, what they went through in book 1 and what has happened since we left them. While I thought London Falling read a bit like a TV script, The Severed Streets reads more like a play. It is a very effective but subtle way to remind me about characters I haven't thought about for over a year. Cornell keeps the format of having POV chapters for each of the 4 main characters but Quill is definitely the dominant character this time which again made easier to digest the plot. He also uses the murders as a cunning way to advance the interpersonal relationships between Costain and Ross and Quill and Costain. However, I am not totally convinced about Neil Gaiman being a character in this story. I think the plot would have been just as good without him and don't really think that having Gaiman as a character gave it anymore cache than it would have on its on merits.

Cornell loves a good gruesome murder and there are quite a few in this instalment for those readers who are into that sort of thing. I guessed who the baddy was quite early on but nevertheless it was still a sound plot line as I didn't know how or when the other characters would figure out what I had. I love that Cornell uses the London riots of the summer 2011 as a backdrop for this story. I think it really worked to deliver mood and environment for where the murders could/would take place. I don't really understand how Jack the Ripper became the chief suspect. Cornell does explain it but it doesn't really make sense. I think that there could have been some other, more suitable historical figure to pin the murders on. In the end Cornell's choice of protagonists works well and fit well with his overall plot arc.

I hope that Cornell continues to build and improve on his version of supernatural London and continues to mould his characters into ones we want to read more about. I like this series and think it is improving. I wouldn't say it is for everyone but if you like police procedural murder mysteries then I would suggest you give this series a go. If you don't like gory murders or lots of blood splatter then steer clear.


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