The follow-up to London Falling (2013), an odd book that morphed from police procedural into urban-fantasy thriller.
In the opener, detectives Tony Costain and Kev Sefton, DI James Quill and police intelligence analyst Lisa Ross acquired supernatural powers when they touched a pile of dirt used by their quarry, evil witch Mora Losley—and in the process discovered the existence of an entire occult London behind and below the mundane city. This time, the city’s swarming with protestors and rioters enraged by austerity-inspired budget cuts; even the Metropolitan Police are planning a strike (which would be illegal). Then a prominent member of Parliament gets carved to ribbons inside a sealed car by an apparently invisible assailant. When Quill and company examine the car, they see—though nobody else does—splashes of a mercurylike silver substance that seems to be concentrated magic. Other gruesome killings swiftly follow, with only one clue—the perpetrator’s efforts to make them resemble those of the legendary Jack the Ripper. (Really? Isn’t it about time to let Mr. Ripper RIP?) The team focuses on gangster twins Barry and Terry Keel, whose various enterprises are known to cater to an occult clientele. Ross becomes obsessed with locating a magical artifact that might help her free her father from hell. Also in town is author Neil Gaiman (the very same), who chips in some useful information—but can he be trusted? How is ruthless newspaper tycoon Russell Vincent involved? What of the enigmatic occult powers known as John the Rat King and the Smiling Man? With its refreshingly flawed characters, the narrative interweaves its multiple strands mostly successfully, while the tone veers between jocular horror (less) and all-out macabre thrills (more). Stir in a deep political undercurrent that eventually forces its way into the plot’s mainstream.
Gripping enough if insufficiently original to be a major standout.