Tomorrow the Killing. Book Review

TOMORROW THE KILLING by Daniel Polansky.

Hodder & Stoughton, h/b £18.99.

Reviewed by Elloise Hopkins

Another girl is missing in Low Town and once again Warden is on the hunt, but this one is missing by choice and his advice is less than welcomed. He knows his streets, and he knows the unsavoury characters that haunt and plague them, but perhaps this time all he can do is pay his cut to the Hoax, lay the tracks and wait for the inevitable.

The orphan Wren is still surviving under Warden’s dubious coat tails, but the boy has the Art and it is only a matter of time before it claims him. The peaceful existence that Warden has enjoyed at the Earl for the last few years is starting to feel very unstable and even Adolphus, his steady rock, has broken from their routine. Two encounters with old soldier colleagues in quick succession spell the start of the next big Low Town conspiracy and Warden again finds himself at the centre of it.

After the Great War the veterans were heralded as heroes and to this day their sufferings and sacrifices are still remembered and honoured. It’s been a long time since Warden lived that life but the memories are as vivid still and the cuts as deep. The surface may look calm but a tempest is brewing and once again nothing is quite as straightforward as it seems on the dark streets of Low Town.

Tomorrow The Killing delivers more of the same noir-esque brilliance that placed The Straight Razor Cure amongst the top releases of last year. This time Polansky focuses on Warden’s military background and takes us back to the roots of his friendship with Adolphus. The difficult history of the Great War is revealed and the reader is given much more of a sense of Warden’s character and learns how events in the past shaped his views and desires in the present.

The prose is so rhythmic, so wonderfully crafted and articulate as to make Warden’s story a dark, melodic tour of the brilliantly depicted Low Town and all of the intricate possibilities and varying peoples it houses. This book feels darker and perhaps more serious than its predecessor, with the politics at the heart of Low Town laid bare. The magical elements have been set on the back burner and the real danger comes from the inhabitants and their demands rather than from an external or unknown source, which only increases the tension given its greater proximity to our reality.

Warden is one of those rare characters that charms the reader even in the midst of a drug-fuelled stupor or a violent attack. He begs no apologies for his actions and takes no great pride in the things he has done or the lives he has taken. Despite his dependence on narcotics and the shady ways he makes a living he is admirable, captivating even, and still one of the strongest protagonists of modern fantasy.

In Tomorrow The Killing we once again have a book that will keep pages turning and chapters passing throughout the night as the complexity of the story and the corruption in Low Town is unravelled. As a sequel this book delivers another dose of brilliant fiction, but the story also has a stand-alone feel about it and for readers who are yet to discover Low Town it would be an equally good place to start.