No two persons ever read the same book. --Edmund Wilson

Sunday, May 22, 2016

2016/25: The Severed Streets -- Paul Cornell

To be part of a city was to be a cell in a bigger animal, an animal large enough to have a conversation with the sea, which the river moderated, and the sky, which the river reflected. To be part of a city was to have an index of your mortal life right in front of you: as you got older you’d start saying you remembered when it was all different around here. [loc. 2813]

Summer in London: riots, trade fairs, a masked mob, the threat of a police strike, and a series of murders that, though reminiscent in method and affect of the C19 Ripper murders, target the 1% -- politicians, bankers and the like. Male oligarchs.

Quill's team, fresh from their initiation into the supernatural in London Falling, are uniquely qualified to address the murders, and the various other magical crimes and dodgy deals that surface during their investigations. But each member of the team has an additional agenda, no two the same. Ross wants to rescue her dad from Hell: Costain wants to cheat his fate: Sefton's trying to cement his relationship with Joe and enhance his occult knowledge, and Quill ... Quill needs some help with his enquiries.

He bumps into Neil Gaiman in a pub.

I confess I was disconcerted to encounter Mr Gaiman, and more so by his role in the novel. Yes, Neil Gaiman has form with London-based urban fantasy: but he's not the only author who has explored the darker side of London. (Hmm, I wonder if I'd have been happier with China Mieville in this role?) And the intrusion of a real person into a fictional setting felt imbalanced, adding an extra dimension that made the story itself somehow shallower.

The Severed Streets is well-paced, gruesome and often genuinely scary. The revelation of the identity and history of the 'Ripper' was satisfactory, and the sacrifices made by Quill and his team were significant and unsettling. More exploration of hidden London and its myths, makers and outer boroughs, too. And the notion of 'ostension' -- seeding an idea, giving it strength -- made a lot of sense, especially in the context of mobs and riots and the madness of crowds. Though The Severed Streets didn't appeal to me quite as much as London Falling, it's packed with interesting characters, insights and developments. And the last line's a killer.

Luckily I had the next book to hand (having only got around to reading this when Who Killed Sherlock Holmes? automagically appeared on my Kindle) ...

No comments:

Post a Comment