Charles Stross, The Annihilation Score. Orbit, 2015.

This book distracted me from work I should have been doing, and I DO NOT REGRET IT ONE WHIT.

The Annihilation Score is the latest entry in Stross’s long-running Laundry series, and the first not to be told in the voice of Bob Howard. Instead, Dr. Dominique “Mo” O’Brien, part-time lecturer in music, combat epistemologist, Laundry agent and wielder of the white bone violin that eats souls (and kills demons), takes centre stage. Mo is promoted to take charge of the UK’s new policing agency to deal with people who are developing superpowers as CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN continues. Bureaucracy snark! And also policing nightmares. And nightmare police.

The Annihilation Score is darker, tonally, than the previous Laundry books, and a little less humorous – although the Laundry series has grown progressively darker, this installment has a lot more whistling past the graveyard than even the last couple. As a protagonist, Mo is more self-aware than Bob, scarred in different ways, and her voice is a touch more biting. Underneath the cynical jokes, engaging incidents, crises of beginning middle-age, and brisk send-up of the superhero genre, there’s something pretty bleak. That layer of bleakness makes The Annihilation Score stand out from its predecessors in a good way.

Gallows humour is the best humour, after all.