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The Severed Streets by Paul Cornell
Cover Artist: Getty Images
Review by Drew Bittner
Tor Books Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765330284
Date: 20 May 2014 List Price $26.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

Quill and his team faced down a witch last time, but now they're at loose ends. The Metropolitan Police are faced with budget cuts so they need to prove they're still useful--which is when an impossible murder drops into their laps. A Cabinet minister murdered inside his own car, on camera, by something that cannot be seen.

Some days, you'd rather just chase shoplifters.

Books by Paul Cornell:
* London Falling
* The Severed Streets
In The Severed Streets, Paul Cornell returns to the world of London's strangest task force. Quill, Ross, Costain, and Sefton are back to work, trying to solve a rash of impossible murders. All of them coincide with flash mobs, kids wearing Guy Fawkes masks and cloaks, and all of the victims are well-to-do white men. But what does it all mean?

It doesn't help that these mobs are but one manifestation of a London caught up in lots of psychological turmoil amid a hellishly hot summer. Tempers are fraying and troubles are unaccountably approaching a boiling point. Quill and his team begin to wonder if that's the cause or another symptom.

As they work through the case, there are inevitably other agendas at work. Sefton is beginning to delve even deeper into London's mystical underworld, finding his way to a secret cabal that meets under a bar, while Ross feverishly seeks an artifact that can help her with a personal crisis. Thing is, Costain (who learned he's got a crisis of his own looming) might need the exact same artifact, putting these two unwittingly at cross purposes and possibly endangering the team.

The murders continue but the team thinks it's caught a break when they interrupt one in progress. A fabulously wealthy communications magnate is rescued in the nick of time, which opens up a new line of speculation. Could there be unsuspected connections between the victims, maybe even ties to London's mystic underworld?

Whatever it is, the team had better figure it out fast. With the bonds between them starting to fray, they might not be strong enough together to handle what's coming their way.

Cornell builds upon his remarkable debut, London Falling, in this second installment. The rules of magic begin to come into focus, as these self-taught magicians come to terms with what they can do. If they were rookies before, they're at least second year students now and able to figure things out for themselves.

Quill has developed stronger instincts for the weird and uncanny, while Ross remains their superstar researcher. Sefton, of the four, has done the most to improve his skills, while Costain uses his training as an undercover operative to ferret out what he needs most: a second chance. Cornell imbues this quartet with personality and agendas; unlike the first book, however, they are more at odds than they realize until well into the story. Some of the developments produce real shocks for them as a group, especially when trust issues begin to surface.

The nature of the enemy is kept mysterious, in keeping with a supernatural murderer, but evidence found at the scene provides the group with an amazing new source of magical power, not to mention a way of tracking spirit entities. Applying modern forensics to magical crime scenes pays some incredible dividends, and Cornell is very adept at keeping the fantastic well grounded.

Urban fantasy doesn't always have new tropes or concepts come along, but this is certainly one of them. Cornell is breaking new ground with his group of urban magicians and the uncanny threats they face. Readers will surely want to jump on board.

Recommended.

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