I normally like to save the negatives for the end or middle of a review, but with this book I am going to dispense with the downside at the beginning so I can move on to focus on the good stuff. The Severed Streets is a sequel to London Falling, but is presented as qualifying as a standalone story. I decided to guinea pig this claim and, having done so, I would strongly suggest reading London Falling first. I constantly felt like there were things I should have known, all the way through the book. Despite this handicap, I enjoyed The Severed Streets immensely, which says a great deal about the strength of the storyteller, Paul Cornell. Cornell is a multi-talented author who has worked for comics, penned a number of novels, and is also a highly-acclaimed writer for the BBC, including several Hugo Award-nominated episodes of Doctor Who. The style of The Severed Streets is everything that makes one a fan of classic BBC: foggy, British-style noir detectives, fascinating history interwoven with archaic occult, all set in what is possibly one of the best cities for a mystery book location, London. The story involves a specialized task force of London’s Metropolitan Police. The members of this task force have the ability to see the supernatural elements underlying the city, an ability which was obtained in the first novel, London Falling. Armed with The Sight, the group inserts themselves into any criminal investigations that involve unexplained or seemingly impossible observations by witnesses. The first crime in The Severed Streets is a twist on the locked-room murder; a cabinet member is gutted inside his locked car in the middle of a mob protest against austerity measures. After the second murder, a pattern emerges with a style all-too reminiscent of the archetype of serial killers, Jack the Ripper. Our investigators are drawn into a web of London underground occult as they attempt to disentangle the threads that might possibly lead to murderer that has been dead for centuries. The story is extremely well-drawn and full of skillfully crafted twists and turns. The occult themes layer Victorian enigma on top of current UK politics for an intriguing blend of timelessness and modernity. The characters are full of depth and interest and I regret not having gotten to know them better before reading this story from the prequel, London Falling. Cornell has successfully created a microcosm that will hopefully serve as a backdrop for many future whodunit installations to come. If you enjoy mysteries, put these books on your reading list. You won’t be disappointed.
Prefer to listen to your books? Here from Audible.com is a 30-minute clip of the audiobook of The Severed Streets read by Damian Lynch.
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