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Book Review

Book Cover

Beneath London


Author: James P. Blaylock
Publisher: Titan Books
RRP: £7.99, US $14.95, Cdn $19.50
ISBN: 978 1 78329 260 8
Publication Date: 12 June 2015

There is nothing like a sink hole, opening up in London, to pique the interest of Langdon St Ives, especially as it seems to have created a portal to a subterranean world. Before he can join his friends in an expedition into the abyss, murder most foul is found to be afoot. Someone has cut off the head of a local witch and means to kidnap her child. These bizarre events are not only connected, but will lead St Ives to London and thence into the clutches of a psychopath, and his compatriot a brilliant, but delusional, latter-day Lazarus...

Beneath London (2015. 407 pages) is another in the continuing Langdon St Ives series of books, written by James P. Blaylock.

As the series has progressed subtle changes have been making their presence felt in theme and structure. This latest volume contains more humour, but more than that, Blaylock’s writing has taken on a decidedly Dickensian feel. Names often have a tangential meaning to a humorous aspect of the individual, plus most of the characters have an element of caricature about them, not enough to tip them towards the absurdly unbelievable, but enough to give them local colour.

There is a greater depth to the characters and greater use of Dickensian grotesques. On one level some readers may feel that this is somewhat an impediment to the overall story. Certainly the pace of the book is slower than previous novels as the book contains a lot of the pondering passages, typical of a nineteenth century novel. Blaylock has told the story from a number of perspectives, none particularly outweigh another. This does mean that, for once, St Ives is almost sidelined in his own novel.

The book is written in a faux Victorian style, which depending on you inclination may be a loss or a gain; personally, I think it fits the tone of the novel perfectly, allowing Blaylock to delineate between the characters differing social standings and education.

Although the book could, like the whole series, be considered steampunk, there is less influence of this in the current story. Blaylock has chosen to cast his net a little further this time to encompass vampiric mushrooms, witches, psychic powers, psychopaths and mad doctors, all of which are well balanced within the narrative. There is a little advanced technology for the transference of thought and the reading of auras, but in many ways this is the most straight forward thriller so far.

For this story we are introduced to a new villain, the enigmatic Mr Klingheimer, a strange character, whose motivations are a mystery for much of the story and barely resolved at its close. For fans of the missing, presumed deceased, Dr. Ignacio Narbondo, suffice it to say that he makes a return, but not in the way most fans would have thought of.

In the cornucopia of characters I found a soft spot for the dwarf Beaumont, ravaged and mistreated by life he remains a survivor of Tyrion proportions, with whom he shares a similar dark wit and survival instinct.

So, it is another good book in the series and it works well as a standalone too.


Charles Packer

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