The Angel of the Crows

By Katherine Addison

Rating: 5 stars

This Holmes-inspired story wears its influences very clearly on its sleeve, even siting its angelic detective at 221 (not 221b!) Baker Street. In a world where angels are tied to individual buildings, or have Fallen, and wreck devastation on whole countries, Crow is unusual (unique?) in that he is free to wander the city of London and offers his services as a private consulting detective as the Angel of London as a whole. Into his world comes Dr Watson Doyle, wounded by an attack of a Fallen angel in Afghanistan, and Doyle soon ends up helping Crow in his investigations.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book! As I say, it wears its influences clear on its sleeve, and most of Crow and Doyle’s adventures are clearly based on the first three Sherlock Holmes novels, with a few based on the short stories. Into the mix is also added Jack the Ripper, as Crow searches, increasingly desperately, for the famous killer.

There’s a pretty wide fantasy element to the world that Addison has created here. In addition to angels, most other creatures of folklore and fantasy are present as well, from werewolves and vampires to hell-hounds and fetches. I love how all of these have integrated into society and are just part of everyday life. We don’t get a huge amount of detail – although vampires make a fairly robust appearance – but they’re just there, as part of the world.

Crow is a much more sympathetic and, indeed, empathetic character than other versions of Sherlock Holmes – especially the Benedict Cumberbatch incarnation, where he explicitly calls himself a sociopath. This iteration has an irrepressible curiosity about humanity (Crow regularly watches Doyle eat, as an activity that he can’t partake in) and while eccentric, is a pleasure to spend time with.

Dr Doyle is also an interesting creation, coming back from Afghanistan with multiple secrets. At least one of those took me entirely by surprise. At some point, I’m going to have to reread the book to see if there’s any clues left for the observant reader that I had missed.

Some people might complain about just how close the mysteries are to the Conan Doyle canon, with added supernatural elements, but I actually really enjoyed that. My memories of the Holmes stories aren’t that strong, so it’s nice seeing how Addison works in the additional elements to them and the end is also usually a surprise. There’s a lot of Easter eggs for the Holmes fan to find here.

Another of Addison’s supernatural elements that I really liked was the idea of how the angels are tied to their habitations and how their names reflect that, and that to lose that involves returning to the realm of the Nameless – angels without distinct personalities that Crow implies have a sort of hive mind, without any distinct self-awareness. It’s a fascinating idea, and while Addison doesn’t really do much with it, other than describe it, if there are more Crow and Doyle books to come (which I fervently hope there are), that’s certainly somewhere that she could go.

So while the stories that Addison tells may be familiar, her detective is wonderful, and the world she’s created is intriguing and I loved every minute I spent in it.

Book details

ISBN: 9781781089101
Publisher: Solaris
Year of publication: 2021

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