“London Falling – Shadow Police #1” by Paul Cornell – Old bill vs Old Nick on the West Ham pitch

london-falling-UK-pb_500This is not your average American Urban Fantasy – twists on tropes for werewolves and vampires – spiced with will they / won’t they romance and set-piece violence between the supernatural, fast-healing, combatants.

This is your gritty “You’re nicked, my son”  London Coppers going undercover to hunt vicious East London gangsters and then finding themselves up against something evil and inexplicable that kills children.

This is the Parental Advisory version of Urban Fantasy with up-close-and-personal gory violence, drug use, rape, child murder and bad language throughout. The magic part comes not from distillations of Hollywood monsters but from London’s own bloody history. fuelled by sacrifice and remembered, fear-soaked pain and wielded by purely malevolent creatures who get off on the screams and despair of those they prey on.

When this book works, it works very well indeed. The tension is high, the plot twists make sense, the violence and evil are palpable and you really want the good guys – some of whom are not entirely good – to triumph. The London that Paul Cornell evokes smells and tastes like the real thing and becomes force n the novel rather than just a setting. The coppers are a diverse group of people, recognisably coppers but rising above stereotypes to become distinct individuals.

There are a couple of points where the book stumbles a little; an over-long investigation by the team into London’s haunted hot spots and a step back in time to share the main monster’s origin story that I felt was too mechanical and unemotional, providing an explanation of the monster without really getting in its head.

Still, although this is a stand-alone novel, “London Falling” is the first in a series, so some  “Season 1, Episode 1” awkwardness is to be expected.

This was an original book, with a good plot and some interesting people that has added another I-want-to-know-what-happens series for me to read.

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