Poison City Book Blurb:
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.
Today on TheTattooedBookGeek I’m very privileged to be taking part in the Poison City blog tour, bringing you an extract from chapter 1 along with my review. Many thanks to Rosie Stephen at Hodder & Stoughton and bookbridgr for this opportunity, especially Rosie who accepted my bookbridgr request and also emailed asking if I would be interested in taking part in the tour, it’s greatly appreciated. 🙂
Those of you who already follow my blog will know that I already posted my review previously to coincide with the books actual release date last Thursday (11th Aug). But on the off chance that other people will view this post, it seems a good idea to add it onto the end. And, as my followers know, I loved this book and with the extract you will get to see why I think it is so amazing! The extract itself contains the best description of Star Wars you will ever read courtesy of the dog, it’s pure awesome!
Now before the extract, to make things a little different and in honour of the dog’s penchant for drinking within the book, there’s a drinking game rule that accompanies the extract with a different rule for reach stop on the blog tour.
The drinking rule for my blog is:
Take a drink every time a new god/creature is introduced!
Spoiler: There’s quite a few so make sure you have a full bottle ready! 🙂
Poison City Extract:
The first thing the dog does when I walk through the door is sniff the air and say, “You forgot the sherry, dipshit.”
He stares at me, the colour of his eyes shifting between jaundiced yellow and soul-of-a-serial-killer black. He knows I hate that. It’s his lazy-ass way of saying, ‘You open that mouth it better be to say: Sorry, dog. I’ll get right on it, dog.’
That’s how he insists on being referred to, by the way. Just ‘dog’ or ‘the dog’. I’ve tried giving him a name, but he’s not having it.
I drop the rucksack filled with bullets on the kitchen floor. “I’ll get it later,” I say. “Got stuff to do first.”
He growls, then whines and tilts his head to the side, trying to cover all possible responses to my failure to act as an enabler to his alcoholism.
I give him the middle finger.
“You know what?” he says. “I hate you. With every fibre of my being.”
“Love you too, man.”
“Come on, London. You know I need my afternoon sherry. What’s so important you couldn’t stop at the liquor store and buy me a bottle? You got a date? Joined a cult? Is the circus in town? Tell me so I can laugh derisively in your face.”
I sigh. You know all those cute dogs in the movies you saw as a kid? Jock? Benji? Lassie? Well, the dog is nothing like that. He’s the complete opposite of that. He’s the dog equivalent of a pervert in a dirty raincoat, sucking methylated spirits through a loaf of bread while watching porn and cackling to himself. He looks a bit like a border terrier, but don’t let that fool you. Cute and friendly he is not.
But you know what? He’s OK.
Actually, no, I’m lying. He’s not OK. Not by a long shot. He’s like that one friend you’ve known since high school. The one who drinks too much and tells sexist and racist jokes. The one you wouldn’t admit to knowing if you bumped into him with actual people from the real world.
But we’re used to each other by now. And as long as I keep him stocked up on OBs, (Old Brown sherry – the cheapest, nastiest stuff on the market), he’s golden.
I pull out a stool, park myself at the kitchen counter. “We think we’ve found out who’s taking the kids.”
That shuts him up.
Someone has been stealing kids from the townships. Kids who haven’t gone through their naming ceremonies yet. Eleven in the past three months. The families went to ORCU – that’s the Occult Related Crimes Unit of the South African Police Force – and they in turn passed it on to Delphic Division. Because let’s face it, ORCU is a waste of space and the closest they’ve ever gotten to the supernatural is daring each other to say Candyman three times in front of the mirror.
ORCU is the public face of the country’s supernatural police. Delphic Division is where the actual work gets done.
The families of the missing kids thought it was a tokoloshe, but I thought differently. That’s why I requested the case. The ages of the missing kids, the way they just vanished into thin air…
It was them. It had to be.
After three years, they were getting back in the game. They thought it had all blown over, that they were forgotten.
They’re very much mistaken.
“Come on,” snaps the dog. “You know my bladder can’t take this kind of suspense. Who’s the naughty thief stealing little kiddy-winks?”
The dog stares at me then erupts into wheezy laughter. Which in turn descends into a horrific coughing fit, making him sounding like an asthmatic coal miner with lung cancer.
“Seriously?” he says, when he finally gets himself under control.
“Would never have pinned that on him. Didn’t think he had the imagination.”
Babalu-Aye is the orisha of disease and illness. (An orisha is what we call a Tier-One supernatural. The word orisha is supposed to refer to the Yoruba gods, but over the years it’s become the catch-all term for anything… other: gods, demons, nature elementals, whatever. There are other tiers below the orisha, but they’re the biggest pains in the arse.)
Everyone thinks of Babalu-Aye as this mild-mannered old god called upon by the sick to make them feel better. Only thing is, that’s not the whole story, because Babalu-Aye likes to cause disease as well. Which he does quite often, apparently.
“You know where he is?” asks the dog.
“And… what? You’re going to just walk in and take him on?”
“No choice. Another kid went missing yesterday. Might still be time to save him.”
“Doubt it,” says the dog cheerfully. “Come on. Forget it. Let’s go out drinking instead. Drinking is good. Hunting gods is bad.”
“You know I can’t. The gods are bad enough as it is. I’m not going to let him think he can just snatch kids whenever he feels like it. Let one get away with it, they all start getting ideas.”
“And tell me. Is this little escapade on the books or off?”
I hesitate. Delphic Division’s budget is being squeezed by pencil-pushers in Parliament, and my boss, Armitage, is under pressure to only take on ‘high-return’ cases. Whatever the hell that means.
But that doesn’t stop Armitage. Oh, no. She just surreptitiously passes me the case file, taps her nose, and tells me, “Take care of it, there’s a good lad.”
Plausible deniability is just one of the super-fun phrases I’ve learned while working at Delphic Division.
But I don’t mind. Not this time. I’ve been waiting for this chance for three years now. It’s the only reason I stayed on at the Division, when it would have been a hell’ve a lot easier to just sink into the drink and let oblivion take me.
The dog plods forward and sniffs the rucksack at my feet. “What’s that smell?”
“Yeah? Well, Tinkerbell’s got cancer or something, because that stinks like a match factory and a methane farm fucked each other and had ugly babies.”
I ignore him, reaching into the cupboard by my knees and pulling out my antique double-barrel sawn-off. It’s a thing of absolute beauty, filigreed and silver-plated. I won it in a game of poker with Mathew Hopkins, an utter psycho who started hunting witches in the 17th century. Last I heard he was still alive and doing his thing over in Russia.
I take a box of shotgun shells from the rucksack, crack open the gun, and slot two into place. I put the remaining six in my pockets.
The lead shot inside the shells has been removed and replaced with petrified dung balls, courtesy of Aka Manah, a Zoroastrian demon who’s currently tenth in line for the throne of Hell. It’s Aka Manah’s job to take care of naughty demons down below. He’s Judge Dredd to their Mega-City One citizens, and everypart of him can kill an orisha.
Even his shit.
I really wish I had more shells, but at two thousand rand a pop, these have already destroyed my operational budget.
I shove the shooter inside the rucksack. There’s another box inside, this one filled with thrice-hexed 9mm silver-plated rounds. I slot them into the magazine of my Glock 17, shove the pistol into the back of my trousers and toss the leftover ammo back into the bag. There are a few other little surprises in there as well, but I’m hoping I won’t have to use them. They’re not exactly… low-key.
I turn my attention to the dog. “You coming?”
“What about the Covenant?” he says, giving it one last try. “You can’t just go around killing gods. Armitage should know fucking better than to even ask.”
He actually has a point there. The Covenant is the agreement made centuries ago between mankind and the gods/monsters/supers/orishas/whatever-the-hell you want to call them. It runs along the same lines as Mutually Assured Destruction, where both sides know that if one faction kicks off the whole world will burn. There’s a book the size of a telephone directory filled with supernatural laws we’re all supposed to stick to.
The operative word here being supposed. If everyone obeyed the law I’d be out of a job.
“Just have to make sure I don’t get caught,” I say. “You coming or what?”
The dog sighs. “Got no choice, do I? If you die, who’s going to buy me my sherry?”
“That’s what I love about you, man. You’re all heart.”
Durban, wedged up against the east coast of South Africa, is the dirtiest, strangest, most violent place I’ve ever lived. It’s the soul of South Africa. A sweaty one-night stand of a city where anything goes and the warm Indian Ocean washes all your sins out to sea the next morning.
Durban is a schizophrenic mix of colours and impressions. A serial killer wearing a fake identity, struggling to present a facade of normality to the world. Grey 1970’s concrete buildings, painted with dull greens and reds in an attempt to liven up the drabness. Dusty skylines, shading up from sepia to blue. Street signs advertising craft markets and muti doctors. Litter everywhere, newspapers, pamphlets, fruit peel, broken glass, everything stepped on and pummelled into mulch, a carpet of dirty memories and forgotten troubles.
Then on top of this is the brightness. The yellow ANC signs, the red EFF billboards. The vibrant, clashing colours of the thousands of street traders who come here from all over the continent, about half of them smuggled aboard the ships that draw into the busiest port in Africa: Swahili, Tanzanian, Malawian, Indian, Zimbabwean (and, increasingly, Russian).
Walking through the streets is an attack on the senses. The bright clothes, the stabbing sunlight, the conflicting smells of fruit and spices, curry powder and cinnamon, marijuana and sweat.
That’s the city itself. But then, right at the edge of all that you have a tiny oasis called the Golden Mile. A bubble of rich obliviousness, the expensive cream floating on top of the scum, uncaring of what goes on beneath.
The Golden Mile looks like it has been transported here from Venice Beach. Four miles of prime beachfront real estate stretching from the Blue Lagoon to the Durban Harbor. A wide, brick-paved promenade fronted by hotels and apartment blocks, populated by tourists and surfers, joggers and cyclists, dog walkers and hipsters.
This is where I live, right on the outer edge of the Obliviousness Bubble. A tiny apartment in Windemere Road. Not because I’m rich, you understand. But because I bought the place when the beachfront still belonged to the drug dealers and pimps. It kind of still belongs to them, but they’ve gone a bit more upmarket now. All that foreign money.
I step out of the cool lobby of the apartment building into a furnace oven. I squint. The sidewalk is steaming, the moisture from the recent storm hanging in the air, a wet heat that clings to me like damp clothing.
Summer in Durban. Nothing like it for humidity, hot weather, and bad tempers.
I unlock the door of my faded green Land Rover and climb in. She’s an ancient thing that devours diesel at a rate I didn’t think possible and breaks down about seventy percent of the time she’s on the road. But I’ll never get rid of her. We’ve been through a lot together.
I flick a hidden switch beneath the dash. My own personal security device that cuts off the flow of diesel to the engine when I’m not using her. I’m not saying Durban beachfront is particularly crime-ridden – it’s the same as anywhere in South Africa – but over the past year thieves have tried to steal my car thirteen times. That I know of.
The dog jumps into the passenger seat and checks himself out in the wing mirror while I peel out into traffic, do an illegal U-turn, and head along the Golden Mile. North Beach passes to our left in flashes of sun and shade as I head around the traffic circles and deeper into town. Our destination isn’t too far away. About five kilometres as the bird flies.
“Hey, London,” says the dog after a while. “Got a question for you.”
London. Or ‘London Town’. My unasked-for nickname. My real name is Gideon Tau, but I got saddled with London because that’s where I’m from. I worked in the Met for fifteen years before moving over here under something of a cloud. Oh, and ‘London Town’ because it sounds sort-of-but-not-really like ‘London Tau’. All the wags at the Division think it’s hilarious.
“As long as it’s not like your last question. I told you that’s what Google is for. Just make sure safe-search is switched off.”
“No, no. Nothing like that. You know that movie?”
“The one about the incest. With the nazis. And the terrorists trying to take down the government.”
I do a quick mental search of all the movies we’ve watched recently. None of them match up.
“Not ringing any bells. Give me specifics.”
“Come on, man. You know the one. The space nazis and the brother and sister? And the dad cuts off the kid’s hand and he’s all like, ‘N-o-o!’. ”
I frown. “Are you talking about The Empire Strikes Back?”
“That’s the one!”
Space nazis and incest. I suppose that’s one way to describe it. “What about it?”
“Well… were you guys really stupid back then?”
“‘Cause the guy’s name is Darth Vader, right? And it’s supposed to be a big surprise that he’s the kid’s dad, yeah?”
“It was a big surprise. This was before the internet. People went into a movie without knowing the whole plot beforehand.”
“Yeah but… the guy’s name. Darth Vader. Vader is Dutch for father. Darth means dark. His name literally means Dark Father.”
I flick the visor down to block out the afternoon sun. Left my shades back in the flat again. “Well…” I say defensively. “So what? We didn’t go into it expecting him to be someone’s father. You’re only acting the smartarse with hindsight.”
“Bullshit. I would have called that right there in the theater.”
“Yeah, I don’t think so,” I say, stopping behind a long line of cars. I lean out the window and see that a minibus taxi has stopped dead in the middle of the street to pick up passengers.
“I would have, man. We’re not even talking spoilers here. Just common sense.”
I ignore him and drum my fingers on the wheel. My gaze drifts to the right. I can just see the metal fountain outside the entrance to uShaka Marine World. Families are filing inside to spend an enormous amount of money pretending they’re in an upside-down shipwreck while they watch sharks swimming around behind safety glass.
Insider’s secret: the water holds more than sharks. A Jengu water spirit calls the place her home and she steals a tiny piece of every visitor’s soul to feed on. Not a lot, you understand. Just enough to keep going. The equivalent of a couple of cents out of every Rand spent. We do monthly checks on her to make sure she’s not overstepping the mark.
The taxi driver eventually decides he’s crammed enough bodies into his minibus and pulls off with a spurt of oily smoke, allowing us to get moving again. I take the next right onto Prince Street and find an empty spot to park.
“This it?” asks the dog.
I nod across the street at a dirty white wall covered with peeling paint. The peaks of a cluster of buildings jut up above the wall, stark against the blue sky.
“Addingtons,” I say. “Used to be a kid’s hospital. Been closed for thirty years.”
“Why the hell is Babalu-Aye hiding out here?”
“Word is, it’s his den. Where he holds court. Not a bad choice, really. Central location. Easy access to the shops, the beach. It’s prime real estate.”
I climb out of the Land Rover and spot a thin guy down the street wearing a lumo yellow safety vest. He jogs over, a huge smile on his face.
“Good day to you. I am Moses. I will watch your car, yes? Take care of it.” He looks me up and down. “You are going to a wedding today?”
I frown. “No. Why?”
“Oh. You are a very smartly dressed man, then.”
“Thanks,” I mutter, ignoring a sound from the dog that sounded suspiciously like a snort of laughter. I take a fifty rand note from my wallet and hand it over. Ten times what people usually pay car guards. “You been on this patch long?”
He makes the money disappear. “Two years.”
I nod at Addingtons. “Anything strange going on over there?”
His smile vanishes. He shrugs, uneasy.
“Tell me,” I say.
“Lots of talk,” he says reluctantly. “No one sleeps there. Not anymore. They say it’s haunted. That’s all I know. I don’t ask about that place.”
I nod and grab my satchel.
“You’re going in there?” asks Moses, surprised.
“Oh.” He squints at me. “If you don’t come back, can I have your car?”
“Sure,” I say. “If you come in and get my keys.”
The dog and I cross the street and do a full circuit around the property. It’s pretty big, at least three acres. The gates are padlocked but someone has used a crowbar to bend the bars apart.
We slip inside, me being careful not to get rust and dirt on my shirt. The dog sees this.
“Why are you dressed like you’re auditioning for a role in Inception?”
I look down at my clothes. A Gucci three piece, sans the jacket. White shirt, sleeves rolled up. It cost me an absolute fortune, but buying nice clothes is my one vice.
“It’s how I always dress.”
“Yeah, but… you don’t think this kind of thing is better suited to jeans and t-shirt? That shit is going to get ruined. I’ve told you this before.”
“Yeah, but you know I don’t listen to a word you say.”
He’s probably right. But I’m not going to let him know that.
I check out our surroundings. We’re standing on the ruined driveway leading up to the hospital. Uneven grass spurts up in tufts and clumps. Weeds push through cracked asphalt.
We approach the building. Empty windows gaze down at us, like the vacant eyes of a retail worker at Christmas. The main door is wooden, recessed beneath a portico and balcony. Just below the balcony is a frieze of what looks like Jesus standing with some children. They’re holding fruit, the only splash of colour on the dirty beige paint.
There’s a silence here, a stifling emptiness that hangs over everything.
I take a deep breath, let it out slowly. “You ready?”
“Ready,” says the dog.
Poison City by Paul Crilley is available to purchase here:
About the Author:
Paul Crilley is a Scotsman adrift in South Africa and has been writing professionally for the past 17 years. In that time he has worked on over thirteen television shows, one of which was nominated for an international Emmy award.
He has written eight novels, worked on five computer games, and also written comics for IDW. His previous novels include The Invisible Order books, a middle grade series about a hidden war being fought between various factions of faeries in the streets of Victorian London, The Adventures of Tweed & Nightingale, about a teenage clone of Sherlock Holmes, and My Zombie Hamster, (written under the pseudonym Havelock McCreely). Poison City is his debut adult novel.
Paul can be found on Twitter !!HERE!!
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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Well, that concludes my stop on the Poison City blog tour, I hope you’ve enjoyed it. Now, before you go why not check out the other blogs that took part in the tour: