Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch

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It is the first novel in the Peter Grant series and tells of Peter Grant’s investigation as part of a unique branch of the Metropolitan Police dedicated to investigate crimes related to magic and/or the supernatural.

No, I do try to avoid spoilers but just beware that there might be something somewhere. Better safe than sorry: SPOILER ALERT!

 

In its first adventure, we meet Police Constable Peter Grant as he is securing the crime scene in Covent Garden until SOCO arrives in the morning. As his partner leaves him to get coffee, Peter gets his first clue from an eye-witness. Sadly, the eye-witness is dead.

Peter, however, hasn’t had a stellar career so far and, as the time to be assigned approaches, fears he is going to be relegated to the less popular jobs in the Met. His encounter with the ghost, though, brings him to the attention of Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale, the sole member of a very special branch of the Met.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the novel, as you can tell by the number of stars. The character of Peter Grant is a credible young man whose main issue is to make something of himself in his career of choice. That’s something that everybody can relate to, I believe. I also like the character because he is a movie lover, so that appeals to me.

The other intriguing character is Nightingale himself. I feel like the author could easily write a series of prequels with Nightingale as the main character and would be equally successful because I would love to know more about him. Of course, part of that will come when I read the following books in the series, but I think he would need his own dedicated novels. You see, where Peter is interesting because he knows nothing and is discovering this hidden world (facilitating the task for us), Nightingale is mysterious, and who doesn’t like a mysterious gentleman.

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But I think that the most successful part of the novel by far is its setting. As I’ve said before, our characters operate in London. I’ve only been there a couple of times, but reading Rivers of London I got the same sense, the same feeling, of the big city and its intricacies and history as I did when I was actually standing there. So much so that when Londonist asked people to nominate the best novels about London, Rivers and the whole series earned itself the first place, followed by, possibly, my favourite Neil Gaiman novel, Neverwhere. Find the whole list here.

But you might have noticed that I didn’t give it full marks. Were did that half star go, you ask. Well, the bad guy, for me, springs out of nowhere. From one page to the next, we suddenly know who it is when the suspicion wasn’t quite built up as much as suddenly pops up in front of you and you spend the rest of the novel chasing it. It doesn’t detract a lot from the pleasure of reading this story, but it does stay in the back of you mind as you continue with the action. There is a chance that I missed something, though, but not a bit one. Still, the resolution was intriguing and exceptionally interesting to read.

Overall, it’s a great story and the author does an excellent job with describing the scene and setting you right in the middle of the city. The overall tone is also not too serious, not dramatic enough that you are constantly tense, but not skipping on the tragic or brutal and, at time, a bit scary. It’s a balance that one would believe impossible to strike, and yet Aaronovitch does it brilliantly.

So, if you like a good crime novel and you like a bit of supernatural, magic mystery and, on top of that, you love London (or wish you could visit it) this is the novel for you! Even better, if you love it like I did, you’ll be even happier to find five more books follow.

Good reading!

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