Book Review: The Severed Streets

The Severed Streets by Paul Cornell, Shadow Police #2

Detective Inspector James Quill and his wily squad of supernatural crime-busters are coming to terms with their new-found second sight. They have a handle on the ghosts and ghouls, but the rest of London's supernatural underworld is still unknown. When a seemingly invisible murderer kills a top cabinet minister in unusual circumstances, the team knows this is a case for them.

Attempts to learn more about this mysterious figure are hampered when their chief detective goes missing, and a core member of their team becomes more focussed on bringing her father back to life than finding their missing detective. Soon the team seems to be falling apart as each member pursues their own interests. Throw in an ancient and vengeful spirit and a Rat King, and their mission soon becomes a trip to Hell - literally.

Last year around this time as well I was firstly introduced to the writing of Paul Cornell and he first in the new Shadow Police series: London Falling. This was a very solid entry amongst the detective/urban fantasy books that were published at time. A lot of books in this genre has similarities but London Falling had something raw and realistic working in its favor. Paul Cornell creates a very real London with some mysterious occult things happening but not over the top, it all in between the lines of the natural and supernatural. Also the characters were normal cops until something happened to them which ave them a special ability that they had to master and with which came a lot of responsibility. London Falling was a terrific first entry and Paul Cornell did raise the stakes very high for this sequel The Severed Streets, but let me reassure that he made it more than true. 

The story of The Severed Street picks up just after the events of London Falling. The police officers Quill, Ross, Costain and Sefton. In the first book they got a small present. Something called second sight, which allows them to see the supernatural things that occur all throughout London. The weird stuff. They also lead a special investigation squad now. So, when something unexplainable murder an important person it only seems fit that James Quill and his colleagues are called into action to try to find out just what happened. During a auto ride an important MP is murder from within his car, granted they had to travel through a "hostile" area with a lot of protestors but the murder happened from within the car and nobody got in or our of it and the driver couldn't have done it. Yet the MP suffered lots of specific cuts from a sharp object, yes, blood everywhere. So just what is going on? James Quill and his fellow officers really have their work cut out for them and once they get to the crime scene, they immediately recognize that they are dealing with the occult. But the murder of the MP isn't the only one that has happened, more victims turn up that have the same sort of patterns and a text above one of the murder victims soon reveal with just who they are dealing. None other than the infamous and said to have died Jack the Ripper. Why is he back and not in the Whitechapel area and why is he killing rich white man instead of young women? This is the start of the next eventful mission for James Quill and his team along the way they meet up with some shady persons from the London supernatural underground that both help them and block their way. 

I really enjoyed the story of The Severed Streets, Paul Cornell bring so much to the forefront of the story then what meets the eye in the first place. The Severed Streets is the second book in the Shadow Police series but can easily be read as a stand alone, Paul Cornell gives enough of a recap of what happened in London Falling and what the state of the current story is. But I can highly recommend you do read with London Falling though as it is just a terrific read as well. Anyway in the case of The Severed Streets, there is a great further exploration of the supernatural world of London and comes to show that there is even much more going on that what James Quill and his team first dared to anticipate. AND that it not only takes place in London but in other major cities as well. 

The characters to which you were introduced to in the first book, Quill, Ross, Sefton and Costain are once again in the spotlight. Since you already had a nice view of the division of their roles in London Falling it was nice to see that their development was taken further once again. Now that they all have the second sight and are dealing with the consequences it is only natural and human that it impacts their personal life and this is something that Paul Cornell doesn't avoid. For example you see James Quill and his wife and daughter and how it impacts their life, especially the ending was something that really shocked me both with what happened to Quill but also how his wife went about it and the twist in the end (yes i have to remain cryptic here). Another part that was heavy on the emotional side was the part of Sefton and his boyfriend and how they went about dealing with the stress that accompanies Sefton's job. A very nice twist when it comes down to personal-work relations was the ongoing sort of on/off relation, flirting and teasing between Ross and Costain. This new storyline also what they went about, places they visited and the actual goal in mind gave a nice distraction from the main storyline but was nice to be part of the bigger picture. When I was reading The Severed Streets I tweeted about one major thing of the book and that was the introduction of Neil Gaiman. Now this was just very cool to see. This fictional Neil Gaiman also has the second sight given to him by a fan. We all know the imaginative stories he writes so that might explain his source. But Paul Cornell uses his character towards a much more darker and dire purpose of the book, one that you have to find out and will come to a shock for you. You will most likely be saying: No he didn't, did he? and will be rereading that part. Brilliant. 

Paul Cornell has really outdone himself with the story behind The Severed Streets. He manages to introduce this very real setting of the story and throw bits and pieces of the supernatural way both wetting your appetite for urban fantasy, horror and a detective story. In The Severed Streets Paul Cornell further build on the interesting world and expands it by saying that it isn't only contained within London (is this a hint for other stories?, New York has been said that it is precisely New York, this does ask what Paul Cornell's interpretation of an supernatural New York might be, yes that is a hint from me!). Next to showing what else if possible within the world, there is also a very strong continuation of the character cast that feature in The Severed Streets, building personal relations and showing the action-reactions that accompany with having gained the second sight and it is not all roses and sunshine. This only leaves me with the following message: read this book. 

Below you can find the audioclip of the recently released audiobook of The Severed Streets


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