Cover image for The kings of London
The kings of London
Shaw, William, 1959- author.
Uniform Title:
House of knives
First North American edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Mulholland Books, Little, Brown and Company, 2015.
Physical Description:
390 pages ; 25 cm
While investigating a gas explosion in London, Detective Sergeant Cathal Breen and young policewoman Helen Tozer find psychedelic paintings by Bridget Riley and Peter Blake, along with the body of a playboy art collector.
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FICTION Adult Fiction Popular Materials-Mystery

On Order



In Breen and Tozer's London, a battle for the soul of the city is being fought between cops and criminals, the corrupt and the corruptible.
London, November 1968. Detective Sergeant Breen has a death threat in his inbox and a mutilated body on his hands. The dead man was the wayward son of a rising politician and everywhere Breen turns to investigate, he finds himself obstructed and increasingly alienated. Breen begins to see that the abuse of power is at every level of society. And when his actions endanger those at the top, he becomes their target. Out in the cold, banished from a corrupt and fracturing system, Breen is finally forced to fight fire with fire.
William Shaw paints the real portrait of London's swinging sixties. Authentic, powerful and poignant, The Kings of London reveals the shadow beyond the spotlight and the crimes committed in the name of liberation.

Author Notes

William Shaw is an award-winning pop-culture journalist, who has has written regularly for The Observer (London), Independent , and Telegraph as well as the New York Times, Wired and Details . His previous novel, She's Leaving Home , was the first to feature Breen and Tozer. Shaw lives in Sussex, England.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

In this follow-up to She's Leaving Home (2014), Shaw skillfully resurrects the 1960s bohemian art scene in London, drawing battle lines between traditionalists and the growing modernist fringe. Sergeant Cathal Breen succeeded in ousting dirty cop Michael Prosser from the force, but he's paying for it with anonymous death threats. And he's struggling with his investigation into the murder of Frances Pugh, playboy son of politician Rhodri Pugh, since the elder Pugh has exerted his influence to restrict Breen's investigation. When Breen connects Frances Pugh to iconic art dealer Robert Fraser, he and his sharp-tongued assistant, WPC Helen Tozer, enter Frankie's hard-partying, bohemian circle. Breen is puzzling out which of Pugh's vices led to his death when Prosser is murdered and Breen becomes the prime suspect. Although he's suspended, Breen continues his probe with Tozer's help. Shaw improves on this series' strong debut by delving into the impact of Breen's brushes with darkness and further exploring Breen's slow-burning, perplexing attraction to Helen Tozer.--Tran, Christine Copyright 2010 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

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.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Library Journal Review

Starred Review. London 1968. DS Cathal "Paddy" Breen is simply trying to cope in this second entry in a projected trilogy (following She's Leaving Home). The routine investigation surrounding the discovery of the charred remains of a body has been turned over to Paddy. When a second charred corpse is discovered, the autopsy reveals that the skin on its arms and legs had been flayed and the body bled out. The fact that the second victim is the son of a top government minister immediately ups the ante. Paddy is also harassed at both work and at his flat. His colleague, Helen Tozer, who, by virtue of her sex, is forbidden from driving a police vehicle, is considering moving back to her family farm to slop the hogs. Quaint period details abound: orange plastic chairs, green Olivetti typewriters, and "big" new 22" TVs. The good-old-boy networks, sexism, racism, police cover-ups, and the terrible appeal of exercising power, though, seem all too contemporary. VERDICT This critique of the Swinging Sixties is administered by a crackerjack storyteller who adroitly balances likable lead characters, bursts of intense action, and a great ear for office banter that will engage any reader who remembers the era, as well as anyone who has to google "bell-bottoms."-Bob Lunn, Kansas City, MO (c) Copyright 2015. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.