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THE SWEENEY take on hell
on 24 December 2012
DI Quill arrests Rob Toshack (the head of a crime organisation with an uncanny ability to stay ahead of the police and absorb its competitors without turf wars) on the same night when Toshack's been behaving strangely - taking his crew on a house to house search for someone unknown. With the help of Sefton and Costain - two undercover officers who've infiltrated Toshack's organisation - he brings Toshack in, only for Toshack to brutally and mysteriously die in the middle of his interview.
Concerned that there's a mole within the police, Quill puts together a special team with Costain, Quill and analyst Lisa Ross who has special knowledge of the Toshack organisation. What they finds goes beyond their wildest imagination and when they're gifted with the Sight, they see a world beneath London filled with dark sights and darker doings. Soon they're on the trail of a murderous entity with a peculiar connection to West Ham football club and a fondness for human sacrifice and Quill's determined to bring it to justice whatever the cost ...
Paul Cornell's novel, the first in a new dark fantasy series, is THE SWEENEY takes on hell. I found it very slow to get started and quite bitty in terms of how the pieces fit together, although there are some great ideas underpinning it and it has potential to be an interesting series.
Part of the problem is that the narration is split between the members of Quill's team, which made it difficult for me to connect with any of them as they broadly boil down to the morally ambiguous one, the gay one, the dogged one and the one with a dodgy past. There's also a major plot point involving one character, which doesn't get revealed until the final quarter and relies on the reader not being given key information early on, which I found artificial.
Although the first third plods and heavily relies on exposition (including flashback scenes) I found that the pace picked up after and the villain and their connection to West Ham was creepily realised. I also liked how Cornell constructs the mythology underlying London and the introduction of the smiling main villain promises an interesting adversary over the course of the series.
While this wasn't an easy book to get into, it does end strongly and there's promise for the rest of the series, which I will be checking out.