‘Judas the Hero’ -DCI Judas Iscariot and the Black Museum #1 by Martin Davey – abandoned at 20%

Things are not looking good for Detective Inspector Judas Iscariot. Cursed with immortality by a vengeful and angry God, Judas finds himself in present day London and head of the secret occult crime division known as the Black Museum at Scotland Yard. It’s his job to keep London’s mysterious and macabre underworld under control. 

He’s on top of his caseload and everything seems fine, until one morning a pair of severed angel wings is delivered to the Black Museum and his world is turned inside out and upside down. Again.

It’s true that he is one of history’s most hated men, but he’s been given a second chance. It could also be his last. 

His investigation takes him on a journey through a city where angels work in pubs, pulling pints and delivering the post, along invisible pathways created by the ancient druids, to slave pits under construction sites, and on special trains that use Britain’s Ley lines as their tracks. Danger is everywhere, and characters from London’s evil past are queuing up to see him fall, but there are those who will fight his corner, too.WW2 Black Magicians, werewolves in U Boats, and the mysterious ‘10’ all want him dead, but If Judas can change – if he can help those that need it most and become a ‘Hero’ – then it’s just possible that he will finally be forgiven for the crime of all crimes, and finally find peace

Why did I buy ‘Judas The Hero’? Well, the publisher’s summary said “If you like Rivers of London, the Dresden Files and the Kings Watch, you will like this “, the reviews on GoodReads were mostly four or five stars, and the phraseDCI Judas Iscariot’ hooked me.

Why did I abandon it at 20%?

Mostly it was because of the writing. Some of the scenes were vividly written and pulled me into them completely, especially the ones where there was some action going on, but then the tone would change into the passive voice when the exposition of the plot or the backstory of a character was needed and all the colour leached out of the text. Then there were the proofreading errors – missing words that had to be guessed at to make sense of a paragraph and misspellings that shouldn’t have made it past the final edit. They distracted me like a scratch on a vinyl record. These were compounded by occasional glaring inconsistencies. For example, in the space of a few paragraphs, I was told that this team of ex-apostles working for John The Baptist are scary because they’re unkillable immortals and then I was told that they follow their crazy leader’s orders because disagreeing with him could be fatal. How can both of those things be true?

The first chapter read like the text version of a graphic novel. I could image the image of the U-Boat on the water at dawn: all the dramatic straight lines, presented in a sharply contrasting palette, heavy on blacks and reds and dark blues but with the orange of a sunrise and the yellow of a dingy for contrast. Unfortunately, the same chapter also characterised the Germans in World War II using the same simplistic clichés I remember from 1970s comic books.

The plot was original and I wanted to be convinced but little things nagged at me. For example, I liked the idea of the Second Fall in the Twenty-First Century, with more angels being kicked out of Heaven but I couldn’t see why they’d all want to come to live in England and especially in London.

It was when I met Judas Iscariot that I finally set the book aside. He’s the character the whole series hangs on and I found him unconvincing. Most of that was because the writing felt mechanical – like the bones of a first draft – a pencil sketch that needs colour to bring it to life – but some of it was because I couldn’t see in this man someone who had lived for more than two millennia and whose mind was first formed in Judea during the Roman occupation.

I know that the things that spoil this book for me won’t spoil it for others and I can see that there’s a lot of fun to be had with this series if you can relax and roll with it. I’m just too much of a pedant for that. I guess that’s my loss.

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