30 December 2014

Books: The Severed Streets By Paul Cornell (2014)

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, the Ripper keeps on killing and finally the pattern of those killings gives Quill’s team clues towards who or what is really doing this.

Paul Cornell’s second book (see London Falling) in his urban fantasy series continues the mash-up between almost every supernatural movie or TV series and the police procedural. The book took a bit to get going –as did the first book- but this one takes longer. Perhaps because the characters were all doing something separate, trying to investigate these events, but I felt the book was a bit messy.

And then, Cornell pulls out a bizarre twist that features real-life author Neil Gaiman. At first I thought this was just an odd cameo, but Cornell has this version of Gaiman become an accessory to murder and helps the real villain of the story dispose of a body. I’m curious as to why Gaiman would attach himself to such a story that paints him in such a bad way. Perhaps it amused him, but it is a distraction. 

While it’s also disappointing that Cornell dips into the Ripper lore as many have done before, the last third of the book is well paced and comes to a satisfactory conclusion. All the characters seem to grow from the previous adventure, and like much British crime drama, some are not all likable. At times I have a bit of conflict with this, but I realize it’s more my thinking than writers. I grew up in a media culture that had clear differences in such roles, where the good guys had flaws, but none that made them so unappealing you hoped they died.

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