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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This was an enjoyable read. What begins as a story of undercover policing among London's organised criminals (tensions in the team, possible betrayal, budget pressures) suddenly takes another - and darker twist - as the chief suspect is killed in a particularly gruesome way (not a spoiler - this is all over the book's blurb). The key officers from Operation Goodfellow (the name itself I think a clue to what's going on) are left investigating the darkness behind the crime, with nothing to help them but their "copper instinct" and the systematic procedures of modern policing.

Cornell then adroitly slides this group of bickering, disparate police officers (and one analyst - who has secrets of her own) into a parallel London, inhabited by wonders and horrors that only they can see (but which they are still defenceless against). As in a number of similar recent books by authors such as China Mieville and Ben Aaronovitch, London comes to the fore, almost turning into a character itself. The story gathers pace, with the original criminal gang almost (but not quite) left behind in the pursuit of a truly horrible villain (yet one we're forced, to a degree, to sympathise with). On the way the reader encounters an extremely polite, though infuriating, talking cat, phantom ships and the most haunted shop in London (which, actually, isn't). All great fun, and as a few mysteries are clearly left unexplained, this book is obviously destined to be the start of a series.

I'm looking forward to more.
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on 10 March 2013
London Falling begins as a big drug bust is about to take place. It's an operation that's been years in the planning and involves two undercover officers. The bust is happening now more because they're running out of money than because the timing's just right, nevertheless they manage to arrest a local gang boss and several of his "soldiers". Unfortunately this coup is short-lived as he's killed whilst in police custody. In fact whilst he's being interviewed and in full view of CCTV. Nevertheless it's not clear who, what or how the murder took place.

Shortly after this a small unit is formed to investigate this. It turns out to have been a supernatural killing and after visiting a related crime scene the team acquire `The Sight' which is the ability to see... well what exactly it is they can see is explored in the rest of the novel, but for now I'll just say that it adds an extra dimension to things.

I loved this book. However I do have to say that it took me a while to get into it. The first two or three chapters have almost no supernatural element at all and I suppose since that's why I had picked up the book I was waiting for that to appear. Once it did however we were off to the races. In the past I've scored books highly because they had a page-turning quality but they haven't always stayed with me once I've finished them. London Falling was not like that. It was page-turning because I really wanted to know what happened but when I found out what happened I was usually more intrigued and more concerned about the characters.

Cornell has said that one of the things he wanted to do was show how real Police officers would handle the supernatural, and what it would be like if they applied the same set of techniques to these other-worldly experiences as they do to every day investigations. I think that's where the book sets itself apart. It's also why I think the first section of the book is what it is - we need to establish what `ordinary' policing is like to some extent.

This book reminded me of a couple of other authors when I was reading it. First Michael Marshall Smith - specifically Only Forward - it has a similar sense of a dream/spirit world that lies alongside the everyday world. Secondly it reminded me of the better Ankh-Morpork set Discworld books. It has that same sense of a city being an intricate working mechanism and of the author being fascinated with how it all fits together. So yes, in the words of the old cliche, London really is a character in this book.

Having said that, this book reminded me of those others but is totally unlike them in style or tone. It is its own book and that's to its credit. It is a fairly intense book and the crimes committed are pretty gruesome stuff. But then it's definitely no worse than some of your serial killer thrillers. There is a thread of wry dark humour but it's not a light read, it is a rewarding one though.
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on 16 January 2014
Rob Toshack is a crime lord that has somehow come to run pretty much all the crime in London. DI Quill heads the operation to bring Toshack to justice & there are two undercover cops in the organisation helping to do so. When Toshack is caught however things take a strange turn and Quill, the two undercover cops and an analyst are drawn into a supernatural world. Originally a TV script (and now optioned for TV) there are a few issues with the book that may put off other readers. The characters are a bit stock at the beginning for example and would be better differentiated on screen I guess, with visual clues. There is also some exposition provided in flashback that could be seen as being a bit clumsy. The writing, the story and the second half of the book are more than good enough for me to forgive this. The hints and glimpses of the world underneath (or above?) London are great and the plot, once it kicks in, cracks along at a good pace with our four protagonists growing as we understand more as we flit from one to another POV. There were points where the book gave me a visceral emotional reaction including a shiver up the spine and a solid "woah" from one reveal. To me that's a sign of a good book. There is some clever stuff in here and it gets the balance right between revealing enough to get a handle on what's going on whilst concealing enough to keep you intrigued and wanting to follow on. Good job really as there is a sequel due in May this year. I for one am eagerly awaiting it.
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It is hard not to compare this book to Ben Aaronovich's 'Rivers of London' series as they are both essentially police procedurals with a supernatural bent set in London. Where Aaronovich's books contain humour and are enjoyably tongue in cheek at times this book aims for a more serious note. Most of the time it successfully hits that note and it is to be commended for the overall accuracy of the police aspects and the plausability of the magical sections which are generally original and fresh. Where it loses a star though is in the mystical sections where I just lost interest and ploughed through to get back to the story.
The initial chapters introducing the three nale characters are a little confusing and take time to figure out and then the reader is into the main story with the horrific murder of a gangster in police custody. DI Jimmy Quill forms a little team consisting of two black undercover detectives and an intelligence analyst who literally get a unique view of an alternative London where the supernatural exists unseen by the general public and they have to track down and face a serial killer the like of which the world has never known.
Alternative London stories to seem to be a trend at the moment but Cornell doesn't dwell on this world in the way that a book like 'Neverwhere' does for example but dips into it as part of the plot whilst his team investigate in the real world.
The small plot twist at the end is telegraphed far too far in advance but it does lead this reader at least to hope that there will be more books featuring the team from Operation Toto.
Overall this was a very good read and if I could have given it four and a half stars I would have done.
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This came up in my recommended by Amazon list and it looked interesting so off I went. Very glad I did, it was great! What starts off as a police procedural, following several characters involved in an undercover operation to bring down a rather nefarious gang member, it soon shoots off into paranormal fun and games. After these characters develop "the sight" they see a new and disturbing version of London, and set about attempting to put things right. It is most definitely an adult book - some of the themes are extremely dark, but you also have your moments of humour, and a great deal of nail biting action. The characters are well drawn - I especially liked the dynamics between the group and the fact that their backgrounds are well enough described to allow you to understand why they act as they do. There are enough twists and turns along the way to keep the most jaded of readers happy, and the atmosphere created carries you along for a heart stopping ride. And if you are a fan of football, West Ham in particular, you will certainly have a smile on your face. The ending is satisfying and suggests a series has just been born and if that is the case, I will be extremely happy. I'm hoping we won't have to wait too long for the next instalment. Wonderful stuff.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 21 February 2013
Although I know there's a genre called urban fantasy/paranormal/supernatural, I haven't dipped my toes into it beyond a few examples that bleed over into the detective genre. As it happens, both of those were also first books in London-set series: Ben Aaronovich "Rivers of London" series (Midnight Riot / Rivers of London, Moon Over Soho, Whispers Underground) and Christopher Fowler's Bryant and May series (Full Dark House, The Water Room, Seventy-Seven Clocks, etc.). The premise of those two earlier series is that there is a supernatural London that exists alongside our real present-day one, and that special police officers can act to police that world. This book takes that same exact line, as a handful of police form a special unit to take on a powerful supernatural serial killer.

But before that happens, the story opens in media res, with two undercover police detectives within the inner circle of London's gangster lord. There's a rather choppy and confusing opening 40 pages or so, in which their operation is about to be shut down if they can't come up with some concrete information. Then something dramatic occurs, and the undercover officers, their boss, and a police intelligence analyst are put together to figure out what happened. It still takes quite a while for their investigation to get going, and even when it does, the pacing is off and description of the supernatural world isn't always clear. The book might have benefited from a revision or stronger editorial hand on the first third. Eventually, it does start to smooth out and pick up momentum, and in the final fifty pages or so the plot really kicks in.

Unfortunately, although strong in atmosphere and horror elements, the book really falters in characterization. At the start of the story the three policemen seem somewhat interchangeable and it's hard to really form any proper picture of them. Eventually, I ended up viewing them more as types (the angry one, the gay one, the analytical one, the boss), rather than fully realized characters. That really took away from my ability to get drawn into their encounters with the supernatural, and is also why I doubt I'll bother reading any further books in the series. It's not that the book or story was bad per se, but without compelling characters to take you along, it's hard to care that much about rich atmosphere for its own sake. Definitely worth checking out if you're a reader with a strong interest in urban fantasy (or whatever you want to call it) or books set in London, but not one I'd recommend widely.
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on 18 June 2014
What an absolute silly plot this book has. I trudged through it in the hope that it would pick up and I hoped that there would not be a sequel.

But there is a sequel, and it did not pick up. The overall premise had promise; that London has a dark underworld that only those with the gift of "The Sight" can see. I quite liked this idea, and it was what led me to buy this in the first place. What I found silly though was that the antagonist was an ancient witch who killed football players who scored hat-tricks against her beloved West Ham Utd! Errr, right, ok.

The author failed to make the coppers on the hunt for this witch interesting. I often got lost with who was who and cared not for their fates. The only decent characterisation was the criminal psychologist who teams up with the police, I rather liked how she was written, which bumps this review up an extra star.

Overall, I would say that I persevered rather than being hooked the whole way through. It has highs and lows, sadly in my opinion, not enough highs.

I hope you have better experiences with this book.
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on 31 December 2014
This was quite an intriguing book. I really struggled to get into it for the first 10% and I noticed that some reviewers had compared it unfavourably with Ben Aaronovitch whose books I love. However, I would not compare the two at all. Aaronovitch has a much lighter touch generally and there are some really funny moments Paul Cornell's writing was almost 100% dramatic - I never really felt that any/all of the main characters could survive and the pace and sense of doom was all pervading and relentless. Having said all that, the book did grip me and I did thoroughly enjoy it by the end.

There were times though when I felt that the book was perhaps overlong and events did not proceed at a fast enough pace.

All in all a well written book with good characters and I would like to read the next one!
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on 3 September 2014
3.5 stars.

"You with the tentacles, you're nicked."

An unusual and dark read complete with ghost buses, phantom ships, and a talking cat. A cross between Stephen Leather's Jack Nightingale series and Mike Carey's Felix Castor novels (with a rag-tag team investigating the paranormal, instead of one man). The main plot (a serial killer 'witch') - for me - is less intriguing than the characters themselves. I enjoyed how the team used their analytical police-approach to break the paranormal down into more manageable chunks.

The football angle turned me off, but I stuck with it, and I'm glad I did. I'll be reading the second where I suspect the series really starts to get into its stride.

(I'm not quite sure why it's ranked #77 in the Coming of Age categories on Amazon. As far as I can see, it has nothing to do with coming of age).
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on 12 November 2015
My first encounter with Paul Cornell's writing was the same as a great many people, I suspect: the Doctor Who episodes "Human Nature" and "Family of Blood." I read the novelization of the story and was delighted by how much darker and complicated things got compared to the TV version. Here is a author who isn't afraid to Mess Stuff Up. I liked it the writing a lot and resolved to read more of his work; London Falling sounds interesting, I thought. I'll give that a go.

Which is why at quarter past two in the morning this morning I found myself still awake, reading the final chapter of the book and then downloading the sequel to my Kindle - and I'd made a good start on that book too, until the battery ran out and I realised I really ought to be asleep. There aren't a lot of authors who can draw me as deeply into a story as Cornell manages to do. I'd seen a couple of major plot points coming in advance, but there were plenty I hadn't. So I had to keep reading to find out what happened next. And what happened after that. And...

What starts off as a fairly straightforward police procedural suddenly takes a left turn a few chapters in, then becomes increasingly weird. And the stakes become higher and higher. The fact that this started off as a pitch to the Doctor Who production team for a TV series inevitably sparked comparisons with Torchwood, but the action here is set in a world that's far more brutal and grim. Imagine mashing up The Sweeney (yes, characters here do come out with lines like "You're nicked!") with The X Files and Match of the Day, and you'll be in the general area. The mixture is spiced with bleak humour, occasional snarky references to popular culture and an entertaining line in mythological world building. Just my sort of thing, in fact. I'd watch the show this was meant to be over Torchwood, any day of the week.

And now my Kindle's charged and it's time to continue with The Severed Streets. And if I bump into Mr Cornell at any point, I will be asking him when we can expect more adventures...
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