Shadow Police #3: Who Killed Sherlock Holmes by Paul Cornell (Pan)

Someone has murdered the ghost of Sherlock Holmes. As a fictional character remembered by the people of London, Holmes’ ghost walked the city, and now someone has put a ceremonial dagger through his chest. What could be the motive? The small team of Metropolitan Police detectives who have The Sight find themselves pursuing a criminal genius who soon lures them into a Sherlockian maze of too many clues and too much evidence. Ross finds herself drawn to an actor who may or may not be a deity, and goes on a quest to win back her happiness. Lofhouse seeks the answers, finally, about why she brought the team together. Quill battles for his sanity. Costain battles for his soul. And Sefton just wants to bring his team back together, even if that takes him to the edge of death.

If you’re a fan of The Great Detective, you can’t get a much better title than “Who Killed Sherlock Holmes?” especially when the actual mystery itself does not concern the Great Detective but rather his Ghost, which raises more questions, namely how can a fictional person have a ghost, and who or what could kill a Ghost? Either way, it’s up to the Shadow Police, a small team of Detectives who have been given the Sight, an ability to explore the world of the supernatural in a fascinating mystery that of course comes from Paul Cornell, who’s written several awesome Doctor Who episodes in the past as well as an episode of my favourite current Sherlock Holmes TV show, Elementary, proving that he can pretty much tackle any medium at this point and succeed, especially when you take into account how good some of his comics work has been in the past.

The characters are all interesting ones and it’s great to return to Ross, Lofhouse, Quill, Costain and Sefton who all should be familiar with the audiences by now after the last two books London Falling and The Severed Streets. This book further explores London’s mythology by tackling Sherlock Holmes, something that seemed obvious for a series that has delved into the rich mythology of London in the past. Cornell’s world, now three books in, is fully realised and has plenty of interesting topics to explore that the writer handles really well, pulling the reader in and keeping them hooked from start to finish thanks to a fast paced plot that moves at a consistent rate.

The Detectives with the ability to see the sight are tested like never before as the team find themselves in different and dangerous situations, each dealing with their own newfound problems. It’s an effective balancing act between the cast that works really well and Cornell manages to make the most of their personalities as they’re pushed further to the limit, exploring them well and giving them plenty of depth. London is much of a character as the Shadow Police themselves, and the setting really adds that extra layer of awesomeness to the book.

If you’ve read the previous book you’ll be fully aware of the fact that Neil Gaiman has a cameo of it so there’s more of the same here featured with a particularly Sherlock Holmes-based nature. However, Cornell is a little more subtle with his approach this time around, and the decision to feature characters that look similar to real celebrities rather than using the celebrities themselves worked in the book’s favour.

The plot unfortunately does get a bit too convoluted in places but apart from that it is still immensely enjoyable and even when it does go a bit sideways you won’t find yourself caring that much because it’s still an absolute blast to read, providing about as much enjoyment you’d expect from a book that looks the death of Sherlock Holmes’ ghost. There’s plenty of things to love about this book and it’s another really solid entry to the series as a result and is worth checking out if you’re familiar with the previous novels in the series. However, If you haven’t yet had the chance to check them out though, perhaps drawn here by the concept of the book and you’re a fan of Ben Aaronovitch, Benedict Jacka, Jim Butcher or Neil Gaiman, then you should move the Shadow Police series to the top of your watchlist.

VERDICT: 8/10

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One comment

  1. I thought this was the best of these books so far, and would probably agree with your rating of 8/10. I really didn’t care for the climax in both of the first two books, because Cornell spent the last 10% or so of each recapping everything in extreme detail. Yeah, we got it, we read the book! Don’t “show” me how clever you are, just be clever and trust the reader to get it (or not). I was on the fence about even reading this one, but the premise was so good that I had. And I’m glad I did.

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