4.5 stars out of 5.
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.
I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Poison City is the first book in Paul Crilley’s new urban fantasy series of books. Focusing on Gideon Tau (nickname – London Town as he’s British and Tau sounds like town), his spirit guide ‘the dog’ and his boss Armitage and set in South Africa, Durban to be precise – the titular Poison City of the title.
Tau works for the Delphic Division, which is the occult investigation unit of the South African police force and was formed to keep the supernatural creatures that live in SA, under control and within the law, making sure that those creatures (Orisha’s, Fae, Vampires, Werewolves, Demons, amongst others) abide by the covenant.
The covenant is the centuries old agreement between mankind and the supernatural where each side generally sticks to the rules of not committing crimes against each other, obviously that doesn’t always happen as then there would be no need for the Delphic Division.
Where do the supernatural creatures come from you may ask and I’ll tell you. There’s two worlds in Poison City, Dayside and Nightside. Our world and humans are Dayside – presumably because we are deemed to be the light. With the other world and the supernatural creatures that inhabit it, Nightside – as they are the dark. Now, that’s a very simplistic black and white description of the two worlds and there’s actually countless shades of grey between the two colours, as we all know about human nature and the evil that can lurk within humanity.
At the start of the book, the story appears to be a simple investigation into the murder of a minor vampire, only for that crime to turn into something far bigger as the story progresses, building to the big reveal about what’s really going on behind the scenes and the epic confrontation between good and evil at the books conclusion.
I recently finished Nevernight by Jay Kristoff, any fantasy fans reading this review can check out my review !!HERE!! I thought that it had one of the best opening lines I’ve read in a book, not just recently but in a very long time, setting the tone and authors writing style for the whole book. Worry not bookish peeps, I’m not merely rambling incoherently and I do in fact have a point. As, Poison City tops that opening line, again setting the tone for the rest of the book, along with the authors writing style but also adding humour – most will chuckle and introducing you to ‘the dog’, Tau’s spirit guide, he’s sarcastic, droll and foul-mouthed with a penchant for the cheapest sherry available. He is pure awesome and is by far the best character in the book.
The first thing the dog does when I walk through the door is sniff the air and say, ‘you forgot the sherry, dipshit.’
The writing is of a high standard for the whole book, from the first page – I’ve already mentioned the first line, all the way through to the conclusion and ending. With a fast paced and descriptive style Crilley really pulls you in to the story he’s telling. The pacing never wavers either, with plenty of action, humour, some emotion and various plot twists and turns thrown in making for a real page turner of a book.
The world building in Poison City is also very good. The two worlds idea, whilst having been done many times before in other books, is always intriguing and Crilley adds his own unique take on it. Along with the magic system and usage which is well explained and is interesting. And, Crilley brings Durban to life with his writing style, creating a gritty, dark and realistic setting for the book to take place in.
Throughout the book there’s a lot of popular culture references thrown around, Harry Potter and Star Wars to name two along with many more by Crilley. They are a nice touch and addition, making you smile knowingly at the references aswell as giving some light relief at times. Me personally, well, I never thought I’d here Star Wars as being described how it is by the dog, but well-played Crilley, after thinking about it, it really is an ingenious and apt way to describe the film and it fully deserves a tip of the hat, a nod and a handshake as it was top quality and humorous!
The cast of characters are all well described and even the secondary and small part characters (both human and supernatural) come across as real, well thought out and individual with some unique traits and there’s always reasons for why they do, what they do, so you as the reader even if you disagree with them, understand their motives.
Armitage, Tau’s boss is a great supporting character, she acts perfectly as the foil to Gideon and the interplay and occasional banter between them throughout the book is one of the highlights, again she’s a likeable character and would make a great boss for anyone. The best character for me as I mentioned earlier during my read of Poison City was the dog. He certainly isn’t the main focus in the book but every time he appears and is given page time, he steals the show and you can’t help but smirk at what he says. For a secondary character and a little guy he adds so much to the book.
While the supporting characters all do their jobs, the good guys are likeable and the bad guys are bad, all of that would mean nothing if the main character wasn’t someone you wanted to read about and could get behind. Luckily with Tau, Crilley has nailed it and as the main protagonist he really draws you into his world and story. Tau is a flawed and emotionally challenged person, with a tortured soul and an underlying cynicism to the world that comes through in his comments and narrative during the book. Losing his daughter and the after effects have really damaged him and you really feel for him. Underneath it all he’s someone who’s lost the most important things in his life and has been left attempting to get by the best way he can, while remaining a member of the Delphic Division. By the end of the book, you may not agree with all his actions but you fully understand the reasoning behind them and he’s a sympathetic character that really pulls you into his plight.
Poison City contains swearing, violence and gore which won’t appeal to everyone, but it didn’t bother me at all, they generally play a big part in the books I usually read and all the elements have their place in this genre to. They are part of the story being told and aspects of the characters involved. And, while swearing may not be to everyone’s personal taste, it feels natural to the characters personalities in the book. For example, if the dog wasn’t foul-mouthed and was instead polite and well-mannered, it would completely change the character and wouldn’t feel right.
One other thing I also feel I should mention, unfortunately in my opinion but I try to give you an honest review, is the religious aspect later on in the book. As I’ve just mentioned with the violence and swearing, it doesn’t bother me at all and is a part of the story Crilley tells in Poison City, but there maybe some people out there with strong Christian views who could be offended by the depictions of certain religious figures. And, I say to you, please keep an open mind and don’t be, it’s merely fiction.
As stated earlier in my review, there’s popular culture references strewn within Poison City and it seems only apt to use one myself to help describe the book. The first one that springs to mind is from the classic 1980‘s cartoon series Transformers.
Poison City: more than meets the eye.
Poison City is well written with great characterisation making for an entertaining read, that rewards you with becoming a far deeper book than it at first appears to be. With a satisfying conclusion that ties up the story in the book nicely, while also hinting at more to come in the sequel, it’s a great captivating read.
On the front cover of the book it says ‘The war is coming’ well after reading this book, where’s the Delphic Division job application form because, I want in, sign me up!
For fans of urban fantasy, fantasy and booklovers/readers simply looking for something different to dabble in and try, this book would be a great addition to your TBR lists and library.
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