London Falling: more supernatural crime in the capital

Book cover: London Falling - Paul Cornell (a flaming pentagram above a night-time London skyline)When a suspect is murdered in custody, DI James Quill is determined to solve the case. His small but dedicated squad soon find themselves chasing a supernatural opponent neither they – nor their procedures – are remotely equipped to deal with. Can they conquer their fear and bring her to justice?

I went into London Falling with skewed expectations, based on a vague memory of someone liking it more than The Rook and speaking highly of the female characters (in retrospect, I think those comments must have actually applied to The Rook). When I found something rather different, it took a long time to win me over.

London Falling sets up the Shadow Police – an unlikely squad assembled to investigate an inexplicable death that go on to be London’s guard against supernatural crime. Unlike favourites Rivers of London and The Rook, it’s played straight and dark (to the extent the grue-revelling climax made me quite uncomfortable), with far more police procedural.

In making that choice it manages to carve out a new spot for itself in a crowded marketplace – and the combination of tone and deliberate adherence to police procedure allowed for entertaining and awkward situations. It does make for a dry start though, not least because none of the 4 main characters are particularly accessible.

I always give a nod to inclusivity and the squad score well here, but I liked that this wasn’t a particular plot point; it’s just the London melting pot in action. Gender, skin colour and sexual preference just aren’t as important as a crazy old Tudor witch killing children to avenge footballers who score hat tricks against her club. Oh yes, it’s very London. Or perhaps English. Anyway.

The writing is uneven, especially in the early chapters – which felt to me like a particularly awkward screenplay-to-novel conversion, but once it settles down is perfectly serviceable. I also found myself warming to the characters and the story as it gathered pace, but I can take or leave picking up the sequel. No rush. I’d rather revisit Myfanwy or PC Grant, altho I’m curious about what the future holds for Lofthouse.