I picked up the first installment in this trilogy back in May. I had intended to write a review after reading each book, but felt it would be better if I’d done it after reading the whole story. I’m glad I did because looking at the story as a whole feels better than taking it a book at a time. I’m not saying you don’t get three cracking stories, you do, each book may be linked by the overall arc, but they are all fairly self-contained.
A Matter Of Blood starts out as your classic cop chasing serial killer tale, except you are left with no illusions early on that what you are reading is far from your run-of-the-mill procedural. Sarah wastes no time pinning the supernatural element’s colours to the mast, which is something I’m all for, too much faux “fantasy” is available today that leaves the reader – or viewer – wondering if they are buying into what the thought they were. I prefer to know from the off if I’m getting weird shit because of some supernatural element, or explainable shit because someones clever and wants to make people believe its strange.
The book has a fairly fast start, like the protagonist DI Cass Jones, the reader is dumped into the middle of an ongoing investigation. A serial killer is on the loose in London, killing young women seemingly at random, the only link between the murders are hundreds of fly eggs laid out on the bodies. Pretty soon you find there is more going on than just random killings, there is The Bank, a mysterious organisation that seems to run the world now. There is another double murder, that may or may not be linked in with the “Man Of Flies” case; and then there is the brutal murder of DI Jones’ own brother and family.
As the book progresses the reader is fed information about Jones’ past life, an undercover operation that went bad, and his broken relationship with his family and colleagues. You also learn about the shadowy figure called Castor Bright, a man that appears not to have aged and is high up in the command structure of The Bank. The action is brutal, Sarah pulls no punches in describing some of the jucier crime scenes visited (including a rather unpleasant surprise in an oven), and she uses the language of the street to full effect. Not one for the faint hearted, but the picture it paints of a broken society limping along towards a bleaker future is gripping. Alongside the main story is one of Police corruption and rampant drug abuse, a theme that will echo throughout the following two books.
The Shadow Of The Soul picks up soon after the end of the first. The “Man Of Flies” case is closed, no-one but DI Jones knows what really happened and he’s not prepared to talk about it. All he knows is the life he thought he’d had growing up was a lie, and that the man he knows as Castor Bright appears to hold all the cards and is pulling everyones strings. Much like the first book the main thrust of this tale is another serial killer, and like the first book the string of random deaths seemingly push Jones along evermore in the direction of The Bank, and Castor Bright.
In this second outing Sarah drops more hints as to what Mr. Bright’s motives are, the tentacles of his organisation seem to reach to the highest levels of government, but all is not rosy within The Bank or the even more shadowy Network that appears to be the power behind it. Again with this book Sarah stamps the supernatural credentials early on. There’s no grey areas here, you know something is not right with the world, something is not right with Mr. Bright and his associates, but what exactly their plan for humanity is is unclear.
The book builds more towards the endgame, DI Jones is not so much the damaged goods he was in the first book. Now he seems to have more of a purpose, he knows his enemy and has him firmly set in his sights. Unfortunately for Jones though Castor Bright is a master of the long game, he has had his moves plotted out a long time, some it would seem even before Cass Jones was born. The ending is brilliant, it reveals more about what Mr. Bright and his associates are and then dumps Jones outside his comfort zone by making him a wanted man.
The Chosen Seed picks up several months after the end of the second book. Cass Jones is on the run, wanted for murder, he is more driven now than ever before; more determined to find Castor Bright and bring his empire of lies crashing down. But Mr. Bright has bigger concerns than a renegade detective, the First has woken, the Interventionalists are broadcasting the rapture, and an emissary walks the Earth.
All the cards are in play in this final story. Mr. Bright finds himself fighting a war on two fronts as ex-DI Jones takes the offensive and then members of his own team plot to bring him down. But its all a case of fiddling whilst Rome burns, powers beyond anyone’s comprehension are in play, the Network knows that which they fled from is coming for them, they know it’ll be a fight to the death, and that death will be the destruction of everything they’ve built; namely the Earth.
But Mr. Bright is a master of the long game, he knows peoples strengths and their weaknesses. As disaster looms he turns his association with Cass Jones on its head; the idea is to use his special birthright to save a world. The final half dozen or so chapters are breathtaking, the reader is dragged along from crisis to solution to crisis, the fate of the planet teetering on the brink the whole time.
I’ve read a fair few alternative history books, most pick a point in history to act as a divergent date. But never have I come across a story so bold that it picks the creation itself as its divergent point. The reader may make assumptions early on as to what Castor Bright and his associates are, but Sarah masterfully twists your preconceptions and makes them into a little bit more than what you’d imagined.