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Saturday, February 14, 2015 05:12 PM
Book Report - The Shadow Police series
 by Fëanor

So far, Paul Cornell's Shadow Police series consists of two books - London Falling and Severed Streets - but I'm hoping there are many more to come because I love these stories, the characters, and the world they inhabit.

The series is an interesting combination of genres: police procedural and supernatural horror/fantasy. Although, Cornell takes his time introducing the supernatural aspects in the first book, so for the first few chapters you might think you're reading a standard cop novel. London Falling follows the story of Detective Inspector Quill; his boss, detective superintendent Lofthouse; his two undercover agents, Costain and Sefton; and analyst Ross, as they attempt to take down drug lord Rob Toshack. There are only hints that something deeper and stranger is going on - until they get Toshack into an interrogation room. Then everything blows up, rather literally. Faced with something inexplicable, the odd little team of investigators soldiers on, following a lead that takes them to a creepy house owned by a strange old woman who just might be a serial killer. And that's when things get even weirder. Quill, Sefton, Costain, and Ross all acquire (via a process that remains mysterious) a gift or a curse called the Sight, a brand new sense that makes them aware of the horrifying supernatural forces that lie underneath the London they thought they knew, and that plunges them into a world and a war that they are completely unprepared for.

The first book sees our team facing off against a powerful and ancient witch. In the second they must deal with the return of Jack the Ripper. Behind the individual evils they face in each case, they discover a larger evil, quietly seizing control of London and its forces and bending them to his will: a mysterious, silent, smiling man who may be the devil himself.

Besides the thrilling, suspenseful stories, the books are filled with fascinating characters, relationships, and magical concepts. Each of the members of the team has their own strengths, complexities, and ways of dealing with the insanity. Quill stubbornly continues to apply standard police techniques and procedure even to the most awful horrors of hell (his uncover of the true identity of the Ripper is a great moment that throws a big wrench into all the crazy conspiracy theories). Ross turns everything into graphs and spreadsheets and charts. Costain was the bad boy cop who got a little too deep into his undercover role as a gangster. When he comes to believe he's destined for hell, he tries to clean up his act, but it's just another role he's playing, another mask he's trying to wear. (In the second book a bit of a thing develops between the character who analyzes everything to death and the character who's nothing but layers of artifice, leading to one of the more complex relationships I've ever read.) Sefton, meanwhile, throws himself completely into the world of the Sight, trying to become the team's expert in, for lack of a better word, magic.

The way magic and the power of London works, however, is something that has to be learned slowly and carefully, with a lot of really dangerous trial and error. The team are beginners in this world and they blunder into it like blindfolded babies toddling into a minefield. We get to learn along with them, and it's a fascinating ride. Cornell has created a complex world with many mysteries, and even by the end of the second book there's the strong feeling that we've only scratched the surface. It's not a frustrating feeling, though - it's thrilling knowing there's so much more to come.

Cornell also has a very dark, very odd sense of humor that often caught me by surprise. I didn't expect so much of the first book to be about football, or for our heroes to be texted by Hell, and then call it back later and tell it off. Some of the ghosts and ghouls they see so regularly that they wave at them on their way to work. When a real world celebrity made an appearance in the second book, I expected it to just be an amusing cameo, but then that character became an integral part of the story.

The books are also often deeply disturbing. There are images and events in here that will stick with you for a long time. It's great stuff.

These are real page turners, too. I burned my way through the second book too fast, in fact. I don't how long the wait will be for the third, but however long it ends up being, I'll stick it out. I want back in that world.
Tagged (?): Book Report (Not), Books (Not), Shadow Police (Not)
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