Review: London Falling by Paul Cornell

Until I got three-quarters of the way through Paul Cornell’s London Falling, this review was going to have quite a different bent. What I was expecting was an urban fantasy like Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London, Butcher’s Storm Front or, especially, Carey’s The Devil You Know. These stories, rooted as they are in mystery stories, albeit modern, urban, supernatural ones, launch rapidly into the action, eager to lay their world before the readers’ eyes.

London Falling though started slowly, and started straight away as a police procedural or crime drama, barring perhaps the slightest hints of the supernatural for the astute reader. While revelations did come, I found the pace ponderous, sluggish.

This changed three-quarters of the way through, when a deftly foreshadowed revelation is made. It was at that point that I realised I was reading the book wrong. I was expecting it to be a pulpish, fast-paced, supernatural mystery. What I was actually holding in my hands was a horror story, seen through the prism of the police procedural and buried in the guts of London. My perspective shifted, I began to see how well the book had been assembled, how cleverly its moments of psychological horror had been built.

By the end, I was keen to see what case would follow next, how the personalities and perspectives of the protagonists would develop and how London would change. While I started skeptical about London Falling, I’m now looking forward to its follow-up, The Severed Streets, out in December in the UK.