The Severed Streets by Paul Cornell. ★★★★
While The Severed Streets may not meet the mark of it’s predecessor, London Falling, it’s still an enjoyable and addicting story.
If you aren’t already familiar with London Falling, you should be sure to read it first so you aren’t entering the series midway. The basic premise is of four London police officers who gain the Sight, the ability to see the paranormal side of the city all around them. Basically, the series is urban fantasy with a police procedural bent that occasionally crosses into horror or mystery. The results are fantastic.
The four police officers introduced in the prior book continue to be the main characters in The Severed Streets: Quill, the detective inspector who’s struggling with his marriage and depression; Ross, the young intelligence officer who’s got great determination and deep secrets; Costain, a drug addicted undercover agent, who, due to the turn of events, fears he’ll go to Hell; and Sefton, the undercover agent who stays true to his beliefs (well, lack there of) and delves into researching this other side of London.
What was interesting in London Falling was how each character reacted to gaining the Sight. In some ways, that holds true for The Severed Streets, but at this point they’re figured more out, although there’s still a lot left that they don’t know. As such, they are mainly over the shock of the first book and have an easier time of it figuring out a procedure in the midst of chaos, which was probably why I found this book less satisfying than the last.
I also appreciate the diversity of characters – Quill’s the only straight white guy among the main cast. Costain and Sefton are both black, which is reflected upon in the text – Sefton in particular relates it to his feelings of being out of place, although part of that is also that he’s gay (he has a relationship in both books). While Ross is the only woman among the main four, there’s also Lofthouse, who takes on a greater role in The Severed Streets. That being said, I would still have liked to see more of her and to find out the secrets that she won’t tell the others.
The plot of The Severed Streets initially relates to the Jack the Ripper killings. While that angle loses importance near the end, it was still prominent in most of the book. I wasn’t fond of it – Jack the Ripper related plots have been done so many times that it’s hard for me to feel like I’m reading something original.
Despite my quibbles with the plot line, the pacing was spot on. I stayed up much latter than I intended reading this one.
The most surprising aspect of The Severed Streets was the addition of a real life author as a character (written with permission from the author in question). I was not expecting it in the least and found the initial scene hilariously funny. I was more uncertain latter on – I wasn’t expecting the extent to which the author was used. Note that I’m refraining from telling who the appearing author is. It’s more fun if you discover it for yourself.
In the end, The Severed Streets might not be as good as the first, but it’s still a wonderful book. I’d recommend the Shadow Police series to anyone who’s likes urban fantasy or to anyone who likes more regular police procedural and detective stories and is liking to give another genre a try.