Book Review: Poison City

Poison City by Paul Crilley

The name's Gideon Tau, but everyone just calls me London. I work for the Delphic Division, the occult investigative unit of the South African Police Service. My life revolves around two things - finding out who killed my daughter and imagining what I'm going to do to the bastard when I catch him.

I have two friends. The first is my boss, Armitage, a fifty-something DCI from Yorkshire who looks more like someone's mother than a cop. Don't let that fool you. The second is the dog, my magical spirit guide. He talks, he watches TV all day, and he's a mean drunk.

Life is pretty routine - I solve crimes, I search for my daughter's killer. Wash, rinse, repeat. Until the day I'm called out to the murder of a ramanga - a low-key vampire - basically, the tabloid journalist of the vampire world. It looks like an open and shut case. There's even CCTV footage of the killer.

Except... the face on the CCTV footage? It's the face of the man who killed my daughter. I'm about to face a tough choice. Catch her killer or save the world? I can't do both.

It's not looking good for the world.

Normally I don't pick up two of the same genre books right after one another I read Last Call in the Nightshade Lounge before Poison City. But something about Poison City lured me, it called to me that I had to read this book. This isn't the first time that I heard of Paul Crilley, I read his Tweed and Nightingale Adventures a year ago, however Poison City makes a leap from Steampunk Victorian to downright and hard no-nonsense Urban Fantasy. And what lured me? It was the dog! 

Anyway onto Poison City. Lets meet with Gideon Tau. A police detective, uhm, supernatural police detective for the Delphic Division in South Africa. They investigate the explainable things in life, the occult and the supernatural weird. Yes they fight magic with magic what more do you need? Every police officer is trained in an occult art, but Gideon never found an art in which he excels. Paul Crilley hits the right spot when he starts to build his story. The encounter between Gideon and the Angel is just superb and you can already feel the amazing power that is hidden within this book. I got a sleeve tattoo myself but this is definitely something different, what was the ink vendor again? Anyway. Early on Gideon is being called in for a homicide investigation, a low level vampire, known as a ramanga has been murdered, and the first questions are why? Another angelic intervention mentions that Gideon and his boss Armitage better back off and let it be or else. And well sometimes it is hard to back off and the else happens. Somewhere Gideon recognizes the killer of his daughter and now there is no stopping him. From here on forwards Gideon finds himself in a situation he had never foreseen himself to be in. Not only does he learn a lot about the players in the Dayside and Nightside of the Durban but he also learns more about himself...

When you look at the characters of Poison City, it is just impossible not to have a click with them. Gideon Tau is a piece of work. Gideon also goes by the name London Town as he transferred from London City to South Africa. Gideon is direct in his actions which leads more than often for a very interesting scene to say the least. Though Gideon's character is tough one, there is also a certain soft side to him. Take for example the dedication and commitment he still has for his daughter, he would do anything for her to get justice. The moments that he recounts how she was, you can really feel as if he has to pick away a tear. This gave a very solid character building around Gideon and makes him a lovable character, the funny and witty moments as well as the more heavy moments. Besides Gideon there is another character that has quite an amount of focus on her. Armitage, Gideon's boss. I loved her. Here comments were so fitting and what happened to her and how she came back just brilliant. There is a perfect interplay between Gideon and Armitage. The same counts for Dog, Gideon's familiar. He also has a nice sarcastic view upon the world and adds a terrific flavor in his own sense. 

The world that Paul Crilley has envisioned is just sheer madness in the best possible way. The world has a sort of controlled chaos working for it. The world of Poison City is divided into the Dayside that the humans only see and the Nightside where the supernatural live. The supernatural that you see in Poison City are vampires, demons, angels, fae and gods. Striking a balance between these entities can be difficult as gods are mostly omnipotent, the same as with angels. But even they have their flaws and can be beaten. There is this fine example when Gideon outwits a certain god and you can just feel the suspense and the hatred and relief coming out of the book. And lets not forget the actual city in which the story takes place. Just as how Paul Crilley created the supernatural aspects the city of Durban is just as interesting. It is far from a beautiful place but it does have it's charms. 

Writing style wise, Poison City, couldn't have been more spot on. The way that Paul Crilley writes is just exceptionally brilliant. Seldom have I found a book like Poison City, that got to me in the way that it did. Paul Crilley writes what he wants, it is a what you see is what you get. With a lot of extras. Of course it all hangs together with the character of Gideon Tau that was created as it gives Paul Crilley quite a lot of room to maneuver. 

When I first started to read Poison City it felt as a guilty pleasure. It has every aspect of a good UF story but Paul Crilley tops it off with getting some reference elements in there, mainly references towards other fiction that push its limits like the whole Harry Potter, Star War and some others. To be completely honest I really liked them in the beginning with throwing it out there making a joke, but for me they did keep on going a bit to much and it took away some of the fun of the story. 

The bottom line for Poison City? A definite must read for what is left of the summer. Paul Crilley has written a solid entry in the UF genre that will defintely come on high as a top favourite at the end of the year on many lists. For me this book also came as a suprise as I hadn't seen a lot of marketing of the title. It is just as with Dog in the book. Paul Crilley has assumed the under-Dog position. You will be mightly suprised with Poison City, get reading. Highly recommended. 


  1. Hello Jasper,
    I just discovered your blog and I read it with interest. I enjoyed your review. I like urban fantasy and I wrote several articles about this genre on my blog. I am not familiar with this author, but I might give this book a try.
    All the best


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