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The Angel of the Crows by Katherine Addison (Books 2020, 19)

I read about this in a Tor.com article about the use of Jack the Ripper in fiction. It’s a story set in Victorian times, about two men living Baker Street in London; one a detective, the other a doctor.

But the detective is an angel, called Crow; and the doctor is JH Doyle, recently back from Afghanistan, where he was injured in an encounter with one of the Fallen. And someone is murdering women in Whitechapel.

In other words, it’s an interesting riff on the Sherlock Holmes stories. The hunt for the Ripper is spread through the whole book, while some of the well-known cases have versions interspersed. The Sign of the Four appears, Baskerville Hall is visited. When someone dies and the only visible wound is twin puncture marks, was it a snake, as in ‘The Speckled Band,’ or a vampire?

Because most of the creatures of myth and legend exist in this London, often with an unusual twist. James Moriarty can’t enter your home unless you invite him. But werewolves are respected landlords.

Vampires can enter public buildings, of course: “Any building with an angel.” Angels only have consciousness and names — names are important — if they are attached to a public building. Churches and synagogues have their angels, obviously; but so too do pubs, hotels, and stations. The angel of King’s Cross makes an appearance.

But not the angel I was half expecting. The Angel, Islington is a pub,1 and we’d have to refer to its angel as ‘The Angel of the Angel, Islington,’ which would be weird and unwieldy.

Speaking of language, the Victorianism is handled pretty well, I think, but the author is American, and it shows where a few terms creep in. ‘Sidewalk’ instead of ‘pavement’; ‘baseboard’ instead of ‘skirting board.’ ‘Row houses’ where we would say ‘terraced houses.’ ‘Sundown.’ ‘Paper folded into fourths’; a British writer would say ‘quarters.’

These are mildly jarring, but not that important. Certainly not enough to detract from the fun of the story overall.


  1. Sadly now a Wetherspoons. #NeverSpoons

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