Author – Ben Aaronovitch
Published – 2011
Genre – Fantasy crime fiction
This is the first in the series of fantasy crime fiction set in London and featuring newly qualified Police Constable Peter Grant as the main protagonist.
Left to guard a crime scene Grant is approached by a ghost who was a witness to the incident – opening Grant’s eyes to a world he never realised existed. The story starts off quite slowly as we’re introduced to the characters and the magical background and there are some nice touches as Grant begins to learn magic for himself. The series of gruesome attacks continues apace and the investigation builds to a huge climax – although I have to say that there were times when I wasn’t sure I was completely following all of the action.
There is a decent mystery for Grant to solve which has its origins in the past and this allows Aaronovitch to touch on quite a lot of London history on something of a whistle-stop tour. As well as the plot featuring an evil presence which is taking over Londoners and making them act in unexpectedly violent ways, there is also a thread concerning rival factions controlling the River Thames. The ‘rivers’ theme allows Aaronovitch to explore more of the myths around London and its river.
Grant is an engaging main character, and I do particularly enjoy books written in the first person. His character works well with that of his new boss, Inspector Nightingale, a dapper policeman to whom Grant is apprenticed. They live in the Folly with the mysterious Molly making a charmingly quaint household. I don’t often read this type of fantasy fiction but became completely engrossed in it – if I’d seen magic on my walk through Westminster in a morning I wouldn’t have been surprised!
The book is written with a wry sense of humour which means Grant doesn’t take his situation too seriously even when it seems pretty perilous. There were a few moments that were, if not ‘laugh out loud funny’, at least ‘snigger audibly on the train amusing’. Fortunately the humour lacked some of the corniness of series like Thursday Next.
The way Aaronovitch uses London as the location is brilliant – anyone who lives or works here will know exactly where they are and it was particularly gratifying to see my office’s local pub making an appearance. The link to some of the myths and history of London were interesting and I had to resist the urge to interrupt my reading to find out more.
This was a very enjoyable read – crime fiction with magic, mayhem and myths! You can see another point of review on Notes of Life.