cover image The Kings of London

The Kings of London

William Shaw. Little, Brown/Mulholland, $26 (400p) ISBN 978-0-316-24687-3

When the burned body of an unidentified man is discovered in a derelict house early in Shaw’s darkly humorous sequel to 2014’s She’s Leaving Home, Det. Sgt. Cathal “Paddy” Breen and Temporary Det. Constable Helen Tozer of Marylebone CID investigate. A second corpse—belonging to Francis Pugh, the son of a prominent politician—is discovered in similar circumstances, but with the skin removed from his limbs. Breen soon becomes drawn into a bohemian and criminal milieu of art dealers, hippies, and drugs. Shaw perfectly captures London in the swinging ’60s with its atmosphere of sexism, where bottom ogling and pinching are commonplace. References to contemporary figures from the Beatles and Donovan to Dennis Hopper and Prime Minister James Callaghan bring the era further to life. Breen and Tozer come across as fallible human beings, not razor-sharp law enforcers, and it’s their relationship—both professional and personal—that makes this a winner. Agent: Karolina Sutton, Curtis Brown. (Jan.)