books

Ben Aaronovitch

Books

Peter Grant: Midnight Riot (2011), Moon Over Soho (2011), Whispers Under Ground (2012), Broken Homes (2014), Foxglove Summer (2014), The Hanging Tree (2017)

Rivers of London Comics: Body Work (2015), Night Witch (2016)

 

Peter Grant

 

Midnight Riot (2011)

Midnight RiotPeter Grant wants to be a detective in London’s Metropolitan Police. Unfortunately, his tendency to be distracted looks like it’s going to head him into the Case Progression Unit. Until one night he comes across a witness to a crime no one else has talked to.

Too bad that witness is a ghost, and so not someone who will look good on the witness stand, or even stand up to the scrutiny of his superiors.

But that witness leads Peter to a completely unexpected (and before unknown) path.

I started this a month or so ago, and then put it down, not quite sure where it was going. But–the advantage of an eBook–I was waiting and started it back up and then got sucked in.

So my first recommendation is that if you start this, give it two chapters. It’s not that the initial chapters are bad, they’re just an introduction to Peter and Leslie, and background leading you into where the story is REALLY going.

And where the story was going, was a supernatural police thriller. Interestingly, this book was not completely sanitized of Briticisms, which I particularly liked. Sure, it took me a bit to figure some things out, but why would I want to read a book set in London where all the characters sound American.

There were also lots of smart bits that I found both true,

People assume that, as a police officer, your first dead person will be a murder victim, but the truth is that it’s usually the result of a car accident.

but also smart and sad commentary on people,

…(B)ut risking a fair fight–not so easy. That’s why you see those pissed young men doing the dance of “don’t hold me back” while desperately hoping someone likes them enough to hold them back.

as well as upon history,

Sir Thomas De Veil–a man so routinely corrupt that he managed to shock eighteenth-century London society, generally considered by historians to be the most corrupt epoch in the history of the British Isles.

In other words, a thoroughly enjoyable combination of supernatural fantasy and police procedural.
Rating: 8/10

Published by Del Rey 

Audible version (2011/2012) narrated by Kobna Holdbrook-Smith

I’ve had audio books that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed before, but until now, I’d not had the experience of a reader making a book better.

Kobna Holdbrook-Smith did that. He is amazing. He did various accents that made each character distinct and they all sounded different. Even the female characters.

The story by itself made me want to keep in the story, but the reading, well, I actually finished the book today while working in the kitchen, rather than waiting on the next 30 minute burst while walking.

Absolutely delightful and marvelous.
Rating: 10/10

Published by Audible

Moon Over Soho (2011)

Moon Over SohoPeter Grant is not just a constable in the London’s Metropolitan Police, he’s also the Met’s only apprentice magician. And while he’s governor/master is recovering from being shot, Peter’s on his own probably more than he should be.

So it is Peter who is called in when Dr. Walid discovers something unusual with what was originally thought to be a natural death.

“You can’t die of jazz,” said Dr. Walid. “Can you?”

I thought of Fats Navarro, Billie Holiday, and Charlie parker who, when he died, was mistaken by a coroner for a man twice his real age.

“You know,” I said, “I think you’ll find you can.”

I find that passage both fabulous and horribly, depressingly true.

First and foremost, let me say that I appreciate that each book is its own story arc. There are bits left for the next story, but we aren’t left hanging.

Second, I was very glad to see Leslie back. And although the bit at the end is a tease, I didn’t mind it because it gave hope for Leslie, which she badly needed.

Thirdly, I just enjoyed the writing.

“No hardware connections, no USB ports, three-inch floppy disks that they don’t make anymore–this is security through obsolescence.

That really cracked me up.

If you haven’t read the first book, Midnight Riot, I highly recommend you read that first. I don’t think you’ll need to read it to understand what is happening in this book, but I think it would be worth your while.
Rating: 8/10

Published by Del Rey

Audible Version (2011/2012) narrated by Kobna Holdbrook-Smith

It’s quite possible I’ve fallen a little bit in love with Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, for the way he reads Ben Aaronovitch’s Peter Grant books.

The story is good–I thoroughly enjoyed reading it–but listening? Amazing.

He is really good at the voices and the accents (and there are multiple accents in the story) and just pulling me in. I like audio books, but generally, as long as it’s something I’ve already read, I can stop them pretty easily and go on with whatever else needs to be done, or to drop into a book.

Not this series. I found myself making reasons to listen to the book, because it is just that good.
Rating: 10/10

Produced by Audible

Whispers Under Ground (2012)

Whispers UndergroundPeter Grant is slowly getting used to being a copper for the Folly. The addition of Lesley as a new apprentice both gives Peter someone to work with, and eases some of the loneliness of working for a man who is much much older than he looks.

I’m really enjoying Lesley’s continued presence. I was quite worried that after the first book she’d either disappear as damaged goods, or else be magically made better and everything would be okay. She didn’t and she wasn’t and I’m enjoying her journey as much as Peter’s.

Although journey doesn’t quite feel right for Peter. It’s more of a mad blundering with occasional flashes of insight and genius.

Plus, he’s hilarious.

Like young men from the dawn of time, I decided to choose the risk of death over certain humiliation.

and

…we police never like to use real words when we can use an incomprehensible bit of jargon instead.

Except I think that last bit is true across ALL professions.

And then there are bits like this:

I definitely heard rats scuttling out of y way as I entered each room. In one I found a long shelf on which ranks of saltcellars were lined up like an army of miniature Daleks…

Come on. How does that not speak directly to the geek in you?

The only bad thing about this book is that I’m now all caught up on what’s available in the US.

I hate waiting.
Rating: 8/10

Published by Del Rey

Audible version (2012/2012) narrated by Kobna Holdbrook-Smith

I am enjoying listening to this series so much.

I tore through all the available books when I first came across the series, and have been waiting impatiently for the next book in the series, but the narration by Kobna Holdbrook-Smith is such a delight, that even his terrible American accent couldn’t decrease my joy in this series.

OK. It wasn’t terrible. It just wasn’t a good American accent. But I didn’t care, because the rest of it is so utterly marvelous.
Rating: 10/10

Published by Audible

Broken Homes (2014)

Broken HomesThis is the fourth Rivers of London book, in which we find Peter Grant–son of a jazz man and an immigrant from Sierra Leon–becoming comfortable in his position at constable and apprentice magician. That’s not a common or even popular status in the London Force.

His fellow apprentice, Lesley, is determined to become a magician and regain her status on the force, but more importantly, to recover her face, which had been destroyed by magic.

I love Peter’s voice.

It’s a police mantra that all members of the public are guilty of something, but some members of the public are more guilty than others.

“You can’t go wrong,” he said, “by searching anyone who engages you in conversation.” On the basis that nobody willingly engages the police in conversation unless they’re trying to deflect attention from something. But he did warn us to make an exception for tourists, because London needed the foreign currency.

I love his cynical attitude.

I also love Peter’s scientific approach to magic:

I’d love to stick some high vestigia material into a mass spectrometer, but first I’d have to get myself a mass spectrometer and then I’d have to learn enough physics to interpret the bloody results.

But aside from that, I really just enjoyed the story telling. There is a major fight science that was so descriptive I bookmarked the whole thing to read again. (Note: during this fight, Peter spends most of the time hiding behind a Land Rover. One of the many things I like about Peter.)

We also meet a fantastic new character–a Russian woman who fought in WWII. The group she belonged to, the Night Witches, is a lovely parallel to Russian women who fought bombers in WWII (Lilia Litvyak being the most famous example.)

“If you’re afraid of wolves,” said Varvara Sidorovna, “don’t go to the woods.”

I really like this story. It’s got magic, but it’s also got the day-to-day stuff that makes what Peter does seem real.

Theoretically, you could start here, but I wouldn’t recommend it. The end of the story is far more devastating if you’ve been reading from the beginning.
Rating: 8.5/10

Published by DAW

Foxglove Summer (2014)

Foxglove-Summer

When dealing with the law, having a mysterious past is contraindicated.

I love this series so much.

We return again to Peter Grant, police constable and apprentice wizard.

He is still trying to deal with the results of the last case he worked–the one where his co-apprentice and friend Lesley scarpered off with the faceless man. So a missing children case in the country seems like a pleasant distraction in comparison to his thoughts.

But Peter is still a smart-ass.

If I’d been about four ranks higher up the hierarchy I’d have regarded it as an opportunity to realize additional intelligence assets through enhanced stakeholder engagement. But I’m just a constable so I didn’t.

“So the moon effects magic, why?”

“I’m working on several theories,” I said . “But I’m currently favoring the hypothesis that the moon has a seemingly arbitrary effect on magic because it likes to piss me off.”

“That’s a theory with a high degree of applicability to other spheres of life,” he said.

And he still makes the most marvelous observations.

We trooped off behind her into waist high bracken, down something that was not so much a path as a statistical variation in the density of the undergrowth.

And we still have Dr Walid.

I asked what the weapon had been like. “At least sixty centimeters long, circular cross section and tapering to a sharp point,” said Dr. Walid. “Possibly a spiral configuration.”

“So you think it’s a (redacted)?”

“I wouldn’t like to jump to conclusions,” he said. “Not without more evidence.”

“But?”

“If you achieve nothing else,” he said, “get me a tissue sample.”

That just cracks me up.

I found the dedication lovely:

This book is dedicated to Sir Terry Pratchett OBE, who has stood like a wossname upon the rocky shores of our imaginations— the better to guide us safely into harbor.

And that dedication only made me more the certain that this bit wasn’t accidental:

For a car that was older than my mother, it had a pretty decent stereo on which Lilly played Queen’s Greatest Hits but only, she explained, because her sister had borrowed her iPod and hadn’t given it back and Queen’s Greatest Hits was the only CD in the stereo.

I was quite gleeful upon reading that passage, and am pretty sure there were other references I missed the first time round, but never fear, I have the audio version ready to go as soon as I finish my current book.

I’m coming to think that I love Ben Aaronovitch the same way I love Robert B Parker–the dialog makes the story, and all that marvelous dialog and commentary is the icing on the cake of some lovely world building and mystery.
Rating: 9/10

Published by DAW

Audible Version (2015/2015) narrated by Kobna Holdbrook-Smith

Foxglove-SummerOMG I LOVE KOBNA HOLDBROOK-SMITH SO MUCH!

(SWOON)

ahem.

I love this series, but I love Kobna Holdbrook-Smith’s narration EVEN MORE.

Peter Grant is somewhat despondent about the events that occurred at the end of the last book (not that he’ll admit it) so when two girls go missing, Nightingale sends him up to the country to make sure nothing supernatural was involved.

This is not a good place to enter this series, just so you know. We meet some new characters, but the events in previous books remain over Peter (and Beverly, and Nightingale, and Leslie) have repercussions that will be causing problems for awhile.

Several reviewers didn’t much care for the fact the major story lines (especially the faceless man) weren’t advanced by the events in these books, but I truly didn’t mind that. Peter is going to have slower cases, and not everything is going to revolve around the faceless man, and Peter does have to deal with his feelings for Leslie and many other things.

And despite so much being left of the major story arc, there was plenty of excitement, and Peter is continuing to learn, which (like it or not) is something he is going to have to do a lot of if he is going to survive a confrontation with the faceless man.

And there was plenty of snark and lots of humor, which is what I wanted most out of this story.

And, of course, Kobna Holdbrook-Smith.

(swoon)
Rating: 10/10

Published by Audible

The Hanging Tree (2017)

I just went back and checked, and I pre-ordered this August 2015.

The publication date of this book got pushed back a lot. Yes, there were three (almost complete) comics published in the interim, but I know that didn’t appease a lot of people.

Me? I’m good with it. I’d rather an author took their time with a book then giving me shlock just to meet a deadline.

And regarding the comics, I think this series is getting bigger thane expected, and that’s a way to keep things from getting away from him. After all, the comics give you glimpses into Nightingale’s past, more of Varvara Sidorovna, and many tiny shorts of Molly and Toby (no, really, I love the Toby bits), and a how Peter comes to work with Guleed. And it gave me something to read during the extremely long wait for this book.

So this book opens with a dead teenager and a call from Lady Tyburn asking Peter to make sure her daughter was kept out of the investigation. Lady Ty doesn’t quite get Peter and modern policing.

“And Peter,” said Lady Ty, “Nightingale is not to know about this— is that clear?”

“Crystal,” I said.

As soon as she hung up, I called the Folly.

One of the things I love about this series are the random geek jokes scattered throughout, from the name dropping of Terry Pratchett to incredibly geeky comments.

(I)f you look at a floor plan it looks like two Star Destroyers have backed into each other during maneuvers.

I nearly said it was like setting a phaser to overload, but I’ve learned to keep that kind of joke to myself, even with people who make Harry Potter references— especially with people who make Harry Potter references.

“Was there anything about Ada Lovelace?” I asked.

Nightingale gave me a funny look.

“Byron’s daughter?” he asked. “I’m not sure I understand the connection.”

“She worked with Babbage on the difference engine,” I said.

“In what capacity?”

“She was a famously gifted mathematician,” I said. Who I mostly knew about from reading Steampunk, but I wasn’t going to mention that. “Generally considered to have written the first true computer program.”

And there is a brief (very brief) bit about Peter’s father playing a gig. Which had this:

Later that evening my dad and the Irregulars struck up “The Sidewinder”.

I love love LOVE Lee Morgan, so that made me ridiculously happy.

But what I also love if that there are so many different kinds of characters, and they’re all unique, and most of the weirdness is just mentioned in passing–background of life as it is. I truly love that. But I also like that although it’s not a central theme, the casual racism Peter (and Guleed) get is there as well.

A couple of people gave me a strange look but, I suspect the majority thought I was on my phone, hands free. Of course some of them detoured to avoid me, but they would have done that even if I’d been silent.

“Get yourself twenty yards behind the targets and follow them,” he said. “Guleed and I will follow ten yards behind you.”

“The targets all know him,” said Guleed.

“They know Peter Grant the dashing constable about town,” said Nightingale. “In his sweat top they’ll take him for an averagely delinquent youth.”

Not only is that convenient for the story, it’s also sadly true.

Of course, there are a lot of things that happen here besides the dead teenager, including Leslie May turning up, bits about the Rivers and demi-monde, other practitioners appearing, and (finally) the unmasking of the Faceless Man.

There is a lot that happens, but I was pleasantly surprised at how well it was all worked on. After all, things are never easy (or resolved in a single episode) in real life.

I’m glad this was finally published, and I’m waiting impatiently again for the next volume, but I’m not mad he took his time getting the story right to his satisfaction.
Rating: 8.5/10

Published by Daw