Oddball yarn that begins, adequately, as a police procedural and morphs, more or less successfully, into an urban fantasy thriller, from the author of DC and Marvel comics, Doctor Who novels and scripts, and other scripts for popular U.K. TV series.
For years, detectives Tony Costain and Kev Sefton have been working undercover in London crime kingpin Rob Toshack’s organization, though the inner workings of Toshack’s remarkably successful operation elude them. Finally, the Met bosses decide to arrest the gangster despite the lack of hard evidence. As if forewarned, Toshack has Costain and Sefton drive him all over London, where he ransacks abandoned houses in a desperate search for—something. Still, DI James Quill nabs Toshack, who inexplicably, begins to confess—until he dies gruesomely while the astounded officers look helplessly on. The mystery only deepens when poison and other agents are ruled out. To continue the investigation, a new unit is formed, including Quill, Costain, Sefton and police intelligence analyst Lisa Ross. Things get even weirder when Toshack’s secret protector turns out to be a mass child murderer, seemingly with occult powers—and a fanatical West Ham soccer supporter! Even worse, the four touch evidence imbued with their quarry’s evil energies, only to discover that they can now detect the supernatural horrors that lurk inside London’s darkest dreams—an ability they heartily wish they hadn’t acquired. What with the flabby narrative, characters that develop so-o slo-owly, and a tone that vacillates between jocular horror and all-out macabre thrills, this unusual hybrid takes a while to heat up—but heat up it does.
As soccer fans might say, Cornell’s first touch lets him down, but as the game progresses, his play grows in confidence and stature.