Follow TV Tropes


Literature / Shadow Police

Go To

Ongoing series of Urban Fantasy Police Procedural by Paul Cornell. Four normal cops in modern London were investigating a London Gangster with an uncanny success rate... when they suddenly got cursed with True Sight. A Broken Masquerade ensued, and now they're bringing their police training to bear on London's paranormal threats as the city's Occult Detectives.

The team is:

The books are:

  • London Falling
  • The Severed Streets
  • Who Killed Sherlock Holmes?


  • As Himself: Neil Gaiman (with his involvement and permission) is a supporting character in The Severed Streets.
  • Auction of Evil: In The Severed Streets, Costain and Ross discover that there is a quarterly auction of arcane artifacts in London - held on the solstices and the equinoxes - and attend one. While not necessarily evil, the auctions are definitely amoral and will accept all kinds of disturbing things as payment: blood, body parts, a year of suicidal depression, the ability to ever feel happiness...
  • Back from the Dead: Quill.
  • Blow Gun: In Who Killed Sherlock Holmes?, the killer recreates the scene from The Sign of the Four by shooting one the victims with a poison dart from a blowgun.
  • Burn the Witch!: In Who Killed Sherlock Holmes?, the Circle of Hands includes a symbolic witch-burning as part of the ceremony to open their conference. This shows that they understand very little about the actual supernatural world, and are running mostly on partly-remembered rituals and traditions.
  • Cavalry Betrayal: In The Severed Streets, Quill is being pursued by the Ripper. Neil Gaiman arrives to pick him up in a car and spirit him away. However, he is actually there to deliver Quill into an ambush.
  • The Chains of Commanding: As the characters note in Who Killed Sherlock Holmes?, Quill, as the team's leader, is the one least able to lean on his colleagues' support and help, and is therefore the first to crack under the phenomenal stress they're all under.
  • City of the Damned: Under the rule of the Smiling Man, Hell is a facsimile of Victorian era London.
  • Clap Your Hands If You Believe: Occult London is built out of what London believes about itself.
  • City Noir: Occult London.
  • Devil, but No God: This is what the Smiling Man would like the heroes to believe (or, more specifically, that there is a Hell but no Heaven). Whether this is actually true, or just a ploy to cause them to give in to despair remains to be seen.
  • Easy Road to Hell: In The Severed Streets, Quill discovers that under the rulership of the Smiling Man, everyone who has ever lived in London is damned to Hell.
  • Eye Scream: In The Severed Streets, the Keel brothers cut the eyes out of their barmaid as punishment for refusing to accept payments in cash.
  • Faking the Dead: Very late in Who Killed Sherlock Holmes?, the team realise that the ghost of Sherlock Holmes actually faked their 'murder', and is the really the killer they are hunting.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: All of them to some extent, but DI Quill gets hit worst. He's getting help.
  • Grievous Bottley Harm: Quill smashes a magical bouncer over the head with a bottle of champagne during the fight in The Goat and Compasses in The Severed Streets.
  • Hell Has New Management: By the end of Who Killed Sherlock Holmes?, the team have evidence that the Smiling Man has killed (or otherwise disposed of) Satan and taken over Hell; twisting it to fit his own ends.
  • Hide Your Otherness: Quill's team will usually explain their involvement in cases by claiming to have access to "special sensor technology" or similar. Outside of their squad, they're usually suspected of being an elite unit with ties to British Intelligence.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: In The Severed Streets Russell Vincent becomes the final victim of the Ripper - the spirit he had turned loose to murder his enemies - after he loses control it (due to the efforts of the team).
  • I Have Your Wife: Jessica Quill in book 1, Peter Lofthouse in book 3.
  • Immortal Assassin: The Witch of West Ham in London Falling, who uses magic to murder targets who are otherwise unreachable. After she kills Toshack, the team finds her mystic sigil outside the police station. When they check the police files, they find the same mark left at the scene of multiple unrelated murders and wonder if they dealing with a Serial Killer. Until they find the earliest case in the files, which occurred early in The Edwardian Era. As yet unaware of the existence of magic, the team dismiss the idea of a Serial Killer, and wonder if it could be the Calling Card of a Murder, Inc. organisation. However, the Witch has actually been doing this since the Tudor Era.
  • Intangible Price: Members of London's magical community often trade in intangibles. In The Severed Streets, Ross exchanges her capacity to ever feel happiness for being allowed to study the auction's ledger for 15 minutes.
  • Jack the Ripoff: In The Severed Streets, the killer dresses up his murders with the theatrics of Jack the Ripper as a deliberate smokescreen.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: Seems to be a major M.O. of the Smiling Man.
  • Line-of-Sight Name: Ross picked her new surname from a refrigerated van she saw overturned in a ditch.
  • London Gangster: Rob Toshack, most notably.
  • Magical Homeless Person: Played With. Whilst not necessarily homeless, due to how magic largely works either through sacrifices or through tapping into cities memories, a sizable portion of the London magical community both genuine and wannabe's (the actual line blends to the point that its unclear if their really is is one) live simple, often spartan lives in near squalor and utilise old, often threadbare clothes hoping it will give them access to the magic. As Lisa notes in Who Killed Sherlock Holmes? whilst attending the Circle of Hands convention, many members are dressed effectively in rags hoping to impress the City with their poverty.
  • The Masquerade Will Kill Your Dating Life: Pretty firmly averted in favor of Understanding Boyfriend. Sefton takes up with Joe pretty much immediately after gaining the Sight, and Joe seems remarkably OK with being an Occult Detective's Muggle partner. Sarah Quill is a hugely important rock for James Quill, but the horrifying nature of Occult London and Quill's own despair are putting her under strain, too. We'll have to see how Peter Lofthouse adjusts to his wife's new secret life and the aftermath of his own months-long possession by an evil spirit.
  • The Modern Gods: Unlike other gods and monsters in the series, The Smiling Man is a relatively new manifestation, being the personification of the modern days evils of greed, corruption, exploitation and the general cruelty of urban living, usurping the antiquated Lucifer and his ancient rule over Hell.
  • Muggle Best Friend: Lauren, Sarah, Joe.
  • My Significance Sense Is Tingling: One of the main ways the Sight works.
  • Not Himself: Costain and Peter Lofthouse, both in book 3.
  • Occult Detective: Our Gang.
  • Orgy of Evidence: In Who Killed Sherlock Holmes?, Sefton realises that the cryptic clues planted in the Sherlock Holmes Museum were a deliberate blind so that the police would focus on them, and not on what was missing. Quill even refers to it as "an orgy of evidence".
  • Papa Wolf: Quill
  • Potty Failure: In The Severed Streets, Sefton makes a hallucinatory journey to visit the Rat King. When he wakes up, he finds that he is lying in the street near a bus shelter and that he has peed over himself.
  • Rescued from the Underworld: In The Severed Streets, DI Quill is murdered by the Ripper and sent to Hell. Costain uses a magical artifact called the Bridge of Spikes - a so-called 'Get out of Hell Free card' - to rescue him, despite wanting the Bridge for himself.
  • Safety in Muggles: So thoroughly averted that it may bump up London's Masquerade to Extra-Strength Masquerade .
  • Secret-Keeper: Two of the four are in stable, long-term relationships with people willing to serve as Secret Keepers. James and Sarah Quill even have another Secret Keeper—her sister Lauren. Presumably Peter Lofthouse will be joining the club, too, since he seems like an OK guy and has 30 years experience being a copper's husband—but, as of the close of book 3, Rebecca hasn't told him the truth yet.
  • Serial Killer: So far all their adventures have involved serial killers.
    • Theme Serial Killer: The killer in Who Killed Sherlock Holmes? uses the murders in the Sherlock Holmes stories as their theme.
  • Sex Magic: In Who Killed Sherlock Holmes?, Kev is able to cast a detection spell by causing Joe to ejaculate at the cardinal points of the magical circle he has set up. Kev notes that this is probably the minimum form of 'sacrifice' that London will accept, and only works because it is a very minor spell.
  • Shoot Out the Lock: Costain does this at the squat that is Mora Losley's final hideout in London Falling.
  • Tulpa: Throughout, but especially in Who Killed Sherlock Holmes? with Holmes himself as a tulpa. That book also sees "Moriarty"—actually an manifestation of DI Quill's paranoia, so a bit of this and a bit of Fighting Spirit.
  • Twofer Token Minority: Kev Sefton is actually called this at his previous station.
  • Understanding Boyfriend: Sarah, Joe.
  • Wainscot Society: Occult London functions as one—even with the Sight, it's hard to sort out who the real practitioners are from the wannabes, and even harder to get invites to their social events.
  • Wham Line:
    • In London Falling when Quill asks his wife "Why do we have a nursery?".
    • In The Severed Streets, the words on the sign on the gates of Hell: "It's everyone who ever lived in London".