After a week of kidlit, I’ve got a grown-up book for you today, full of supernatural menace and shady police work. We received Poison City by Paul Crilley from the publisher via Netgalley for review and were quite amazed to find out how closely it resembles one of our favourite supernatural police series….at least in the opening chapters. Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:
The name’s Gideon Tau, but everyone just calls me London. I work for the Delphic Division, the occult investigative unit of the South African Police Service. My life revolves around two things – finding out who killed my daughter and imagining what I’m going to do to the bastard when I catch him.
I have two friends. The first is my boss, Armitage, a fifty-something DCI from Yorkshire who looks more like someone’s mother than a cop. Don’t let that fool you. The second is the dog, my magical spirit guide. He talks, he watches TV all day, and he’s a mean drunk.
Life is pretty routine – I solve crimes, I search for my daughter’s killer. Wash, rinse, repeat. Until the day I’m called out to the murder of a ramanga – a low-key vampire – basically, the tabloid journalist of the vampire world. It looks like an open and shut case. There’s even CCTV footage of the killer.
Except… the face on the CCTV footage? It’s the face of the man who killed my daughter. I’m about to face a tough choice. Catch her killer or save the world? I can’t do both.
It’s not looking good for the world.
Poison City is the first in a fantastical new series for fans of Ben Aaronovitch, Lauren Beukes, Sarah Lotz and Stephen King.
Read it if:
*you think there should be more supernatural police dramas set in South Africa
*you suspect your dog might have a problem with alcohol
*you wish there was a clever narrative device springing from which, when a favourite character dies, is a cheeky method of slotting them straight back into the story
*for you, diversity in literature means opening up the floor to gods, goddesses, spooks and ghouls from every nation and creed
*you are really just hoping to find a gritty, edgy, funny, violent, unexpected police series that happens to feature vampires, orishas and the Almighty
Poison City was an unexpected find. Having seen a brief review of it and become intrigued by the possibility of an alcoholic, talking dog, I knew it was only a matter of time before I laid claw on it. What I didn’t expect was how much it reminded me of Ben Aaronovitch’s DC Peter Grant series. This is one of the Shelf’s favourite series ever (and we can’t wait to receive book six, The Hanging Tree, on pre-order any day now!). Honestly, the first few chapters of Poison City read exactly as if Peter Grant had moved to South Africa, suffered a great personal tragedy, and taken to hanging out with an alcoholic, talking dog. While this felt a bit weird to being with, it certainly helped me to ease into the story.
The book features the (mis)adventures of “London” Tau, who works at the police department’s Delphic Division, solving crimes that involve creatures not of this world. Or at least, not of the human part of this world. The alcoholic, talking dog is his slightly sub-par spirit guide, who spends most of his time sleeping and generally not being very helpful. I had high expectations for the dog, but I feel he was a bit underused, as Tau spends most of his time, rather unsurprisingly I suppose, solving mysteries with his partner. Police partner, that is.
The book is far more violent and edgy than the Peter Grant series, with some pretty graphic scenes of gore and hearts being ripped out and so forth. If that’s not your bag, you probably aren’t going to want to venture into this one. By the end, I was a bit put off by all the violence, but I have to admit that the last few chapters certainly culminated in some surprising revelations about who was behind the dramas causing headaches for Tau.
Overall, this was a fast-paced, action-packed read, punctuated with humour and twists that I certainly didn’t see coming. If you are up for a fairly graphic police procedural with an ungodly twist, then I can definitely recommend Poison City as a worthy choice.
Until next time,