Poison City by Paul Crilley
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.
Gideon ‘London’ Tau is about as burnt out an occult investigator as you are ever likely to meet. A personal trauma has left him alone and angry at the world. The only thing that keeps him going is the thought of revenge against those who caused him pain. Unbeknownst to the vast majority of humanity, supernatural entities are real and it is up to Tau and his colleagues to keep their little corner of Africa safe from harm. I warmed to Gideon Tau immediately. You can’t beat a down at heel hero with a world-weary, slightly shambolic view of life. Tau knows he is a broken man but there is a grim determination, somewhere deep inside, that steadfastly refuses to let him quit. I felt the urge to cheer every time he managed to best an enemy. Even the tiniest of victories felt like he was claiming back a little bit of his life.
I’m sure you’ll have seen movies where an angel and a devil appear on a character’s shoulder forcing them the try and make a decision between good and evil? In Gideon’s case he is not quite as lucky as that. Tau is stuck with Dog, and Dog is mostly a devil. Lewd, crude and mouthy as hell, this four legged reprobate is Gideon’s partner and will help him out just as long as sherry continues to be provided in copious quantities.
The other character I really liked was Tau’s boss, Armitage. I have to admit every time she appeared on the page I was picturing Helen Mirren in Prime Suspect. No nonsense and more than capable of dealing with any type of situation, Armitage kicks all manner of ass. I loved her attitude and her innate ability to steamroller anyone into her point of view. It turns out Gideon Tau’s boss is not a person you would ever want to cross.
The seedy, supernatural underbelly of Durban is the ideal location for this story to play out. In this city there is a very distinct culture clash as the modern and traditional faces of Africa meet. I often find in urban fantasy that the location used almost becomes a character itself. In Poison City the author takes things one step further. Mother Durban exists and is the very soul of South Africa. In all honesty it’s a pleasant change to find an urban fantasy series that isn’t set in London. Don’t get me wrong, I do love our nation’s capital but I’m always curious about other cultures and their mythologies.
While Tau works various cases, including the one closest to his heart, you get to discover all the various supernatural factions vying for power in Durban. You’ll find everything from various types of vampire and water goddesses, to the courts of the fae and dark wizards. Crilley drops some wonderful hints about how different countries deal with their various supernatural problems. The attention to little details like that always make any book that much more immersive and enjoyable. Part of me is eager to discover just exactly how the Delphic Division get on with their counterparts elsewhere in the world. I also hope if there are more books we’ll also learn more about Tau’s other colleagues in South Africa.
This first Delphic Division novel is a rare treat. I liked Gideon Tau and I absolutely loved Dog. It could have been very easy for a book like this to devolve into something overly dark and grim, but Paul Crilley balances this all out with some wonderfully dry humour. The bitchy, snarking relationship between the Tau and Dog is a particular joy. There is also a couple of nods to Harry Potter than made me snort tea out of my nose.
My greatest hope is that this series will just run and run. It has a brilliant premise, is easy to lose yourself in and tons of potential. If you read and enjoyed Apocalypse Now Now or Kill Baxter by Charlie Human, then you need to treat yourself to Poison City. It has that same deliciously dark heart. I read Poison City in a single sitting. It takes a pretty special kind of book to capture my attention so completely. Thinking about it, I guess that’s probably the highest compliment I can give.
Poison City is published by Hodder and is available now. I tell you what, there had better be more Gideon Tau novels in the future *shakes fist angrily at the sky* More dammit!!