This book had me at the title. Lucifer Falls. The suggestion of a biblical / supernatural scenario lured me to the line. Then the blurb set the hook: a serial killer in London, twisting Catholicism to his own psychopathy, making grisly martyrs from genuinely good people. Sign me up!
And Lucifer Falls delivers all that – but to my dismay it also subscribes to all the clichés of British police procedural crime fiction. The investigating officer is a good guy at heart but deeply scarred by childhood violence. He’s married to the force, trying to give up smoking, trying to give up a damaging love affair. He’s riddled with guilt for not visiting his mother, suffering extreme dementia, often enough. His senior officer is a self-serving career climber; quick to seize credit and faster to lay blame. The squadroom is full of burly blokes calling each other ‘guv’ and ‘skip’. And there’s a smart newcomer to the crime squad, a young female constable with her head smartly screwed on. All of which has the feel of items being checked off a list, making this little more than a by-the-numbers crime novel.
And that’s frustrating, because Colin Falconer certainly can write and he’s got plenty of literary references lurking up his sleeves. The snappy banter between the scuffers is superb, as is his evocation of modern London – not the tourist town, but the grey wastelands where most folk live and work (and occasionally die).
But his talents are kept firmly in check in Lucifer Falls, possibly to make it attractive to the broadest audience. Any originality was kept well under wraps: the bad guy also comes straight out of central casting and is barely developed. Another missed opportunity: if the protagonist has to be Captain Whitebread then the author’s creativity can usually be unleashed in the form of a memorable villain. Sadly, there’s nothing much remarkable about this killer.
Starts well, then, but soon slithers into safe territory. Would make an ideal adaptation for an undemanding prime-time TV series.
Reviewed by Rowena Hoseason
Lucifer Falls by Colin Falconer is available at Amazon
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