Friday, 17 June 2016

Review: Who Killed Sherlock Holmes? By Paul Cornell

Ha! Alys, nothing in your life is straight.

I've raved a bit about the Shadow Police before, and have been waiting for this sequel for a good old while. The earlier books are bloody good. This is... It's… Well, it's more or less flawless, actually.

I try not to give too many flat out, positive reviews, try to pick out the problems in the book, the failings, because otherwise this blog just turns into a long episode of me going YAAAAY! BOOOOOKS! But sometimes, it's justified.

Cornell is a writer of rare talent and compassion, and in Who Killed Sherlock Holmes? the concept of The Shadow Police finally fulfils the promise of the first two books. Opening it, I was lost, captured entirely. The unevenness of the shock-brutality that could be seen to mar London Falling has been replaced by a creeping weight of horror, a sense of real struggle and danger. The possibly-too-fast pace of The Severed Streets has levelled out in to the gripping, but measured, almost painful intensity of the plot.

DI Quil and his team are still breakable, still wounded, and Gods, the stakes are as terrifyingly high as every they were, but in Who Killed Sherlock Holmes? there is a sense of movement that The Severed Streets did not have. There is a touch of playfulness. A sense of hope.

That does not mean terrible things do not happen - none of the Shadow Police books are for the faint hearted - but balancing the horror, there is as good an old-fashioned mystery as the title demands. Honestly, I could laud this book all day. From Cornell's creation of a magic beneath London - which feels less like invention, and more like channelling - to the pitch perfect emotional beats, it is a triumph and an utter delight to read.

If, however, you forced me to level one criticism, it would simply be that it is a little crowded. With five fully realised central characters and their relationships, one gnarly mystery and the overarching plot of the Smiling Man, there is an awful lot to fit in to 350 odd pages. It is intense to read, and the sheer quantity of information the reader is presented with is overwhelming. Cornell handles it admirably, and I honestly think that goes to make up some of the richness of the book, but it is somewhat full on.

So, clear your weekend before attempting it, because you won't be putting it down

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