books

Ben Aaronovitch

Books: Fantasy | Comics | Queer

Peter Grant: Midnight Riot (2011), Moon Over Soho (2011), Whispers Under Ground (2012), Broken Homes (2014), Foxglove Summer (2014), The Hanging Tree (2017), The Furthest Station (2017), Lies Sleeping (2018), False Value (2020), Amongst Our Weapons (2022)

Rivers of London: The October Man (2019), Tales from the Folly: A Rivers of London Short Story Collection (2020), What Abigail Did That Summer (2021), Winter’s Gifts (2023)

Rivers of London Comics: Body Work (2015), Night Witch (2016), Black Mould (2017), Detective Stories (2017), Cry Fox (2017-2018)

A Rare Book of Cunning Device, Audio Short Story (2017)

Rivers of London

Rivers of London (Midnight Riot) (2012)

Midnight Riot

Peter 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.

Published by Del Rey

(2013) | Rating: 8/10

Audio Book (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.

Published by Audible

Moon Over Soho (2011)

Moon Over Soho

Peter 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.

Published by Del Rey

(2013) | Rating: 8/10

Audio Book (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.

Produced by Audible

Whispers Under Ground (2012)

Whispers Underground

Peter 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.

Published by Del Rey

(2013) | Rating: 8/10

Audio Book (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.

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.

Published by DAW

(2014) | Rating: 8.5/10

Audio Book (2013) narrated by Kobna Holdbrook-Smith

First, we meet Varvara Sidorovna.

“Nochnye Koldunyi,” said Nightingale. “A Night Witch.”

“Is that like a person or another thing?” asked Lesley. “Like Peter’s Pale Lady?”

“A type of Russian practitioner,” said Nightingale. “Recruited during the war, the training had a very narrow scope. It was concentrated almost entirely on combat. We heard rumors that there were whole regiments of women trained in this manner.

Second, this is when Lesley takes the step that changes her life and the rest of the series.

Publisher: 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.

Published by DAW

(2015) | Rating: 9/10

Audio Book (2015) narrated by Kobna Holdbrook-Smith

OMG 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)

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.

Published by Daw

(2017) | Rating: 8.5/10

Audio Book (2017) narrated by Kobna Holdbrook-Smith

I think what I love best about these books are that Peter remains himself throughout. A total geek.

A Rare Book of Cunning Device, Audio Short Story (2017) narrated by Kobna Holdbrook-Smith

This is a Peter Grant short story, available only as an audible short story (currently free).

Oh My Dog I love this so much.

Peter is summoned to the London British Library because the library (who knew his mother) believes they have a poltergeist. It features Peter, Toby, Harold Postmartin (the Folly’s Archivist), and the librarian (who has past adventures of her own).

This is a very short story, and it reinforces my belief that Ben Aaronovitch writes more material than can fit in a single novel and is spinning these stories into comics, and now this audio book.

I believe that you could listen to and enjoy this story without having read any of the previous stories, first because OMG I adore Kobna Holdbrook-Smith’s narration (swoon) and most of the funny parts are not inside jokes. Well, okay, they’re not Rivers of London inside jokes, but they are TREMENDOUS geek jokes.

I love how Peter’s brain works, because that is a great deal how my brain works. (No, that could not have been a gigantic insect because there are solid scientific reason (most of which I can’t remember) as to why that’s impossible.)

Be warned it is a very short story, and there the ending is somewhat unresolved, but not in a cliffhanger way; instead in the way that many things would be for someone like Peter–once something is contained you may well never have the time to go back and learn more about it.

So, I loved it.

Published by Audible Studios

The Furthest Station (2017)

My current theory is that the reason the previous novel took so long to come out was because it was too long, and a lot had to come out, and that material has made up the comics and this novella.

Sounds good anyway.

This is a Rivers of London novella that follows The Hanging Tree and I think is concurrent with the Detective Stories comics. But I’m not certain about that last bit.

Ghosts have suddenly become a problem on the train, but those making the complaints seem to forget about the event within an hour of being bothered by the ghost. This of course falls squarely into the lap of Peter Grant, and–much to Peter’s chagrin–his cousin Abigail who is spending the summer learning at the Folly. Peter doesn’t want Abigail to learn magic, but knows that she’ll do it anyway, and likely fry her brain doing it on her own. So she’s learning Latin and the other basics.

I actually really liked the bits about Abigail’s education.

According to family legend he taught himself to read from discarded newspapers while a refugee in Freetown before being brought to London by sympathetic relatives. Once here he caught up six years of missing schooling, got an apprenticeship and became a railway maintenance engineer.

This probably explained why he enthusiastically embraced Abigail’s extracurricular studies at the Folly— especially when he learnt that she’d be taking extra GCSE’s out of school… even if they were Latin and Greek.

“And it gets me out of the flat, don’t it,” Abigail had said.

And when I asked her whether her dad might not be worried she’d take a degree in Classics rather than one of the African holy trinity of medicine, law or engineering, she told me, “Dad doesn’t know what Classics is, you know— he still has trouble with some of the big words. I have to help him fill in forms.”

He needn’t have worried anyway. Abigail was on course to get straight A-stars in maths, physics and chemistry.

Including her being a geeky teenage girl.

Abigail said she was dubious about the collection of faded sepia prints we’d unearthed in the mundane library. She’d done her own experiments both with her phone and a vintage Leica camera she’d found inside one of the storage cupboards in the lecture theatre.

“What were you even doing in there?” I asked.

“Having a look around,” she said.

“How did you get them developed?”

“There’s a darkroom in the metal working lab.”

And she’d taught herself photographic developing off the internet because of course she had.

Which brings me to something else I really like about this–the strongly empowered self-rescuing women.

(She) said that she had no doubt what had happened to her, and so disassembled the camp bed to yield a suitable club to beat the shit out of whoever her kidnapper was as soon as he came through the door.

Not that we don’t get Peter–we totally do. But we also get Abigail and to spend more time with Sergeant Jaget Kumar, who we met in Whispers Underground.

Please remember that this is a novella, so it’s quite short. But I’m really glad that he’s choosing to expand the Rivers of London world in this way–small stories on their own rather than show-horned into a novel, or worse yet, not shared at all.

Published by Subterranean Press

(2017) | Rating: 8/10

Audio Book (2017) narrated by Kobna Holdbrook-Smith

 This actually comes after The Hanging Tree, but I ended up reading it prior, and it didn’t matter.

This is a novella that features Abigail as much as it does Peter, which I really enjoyed, since I love little bits, like this conversation between Peter and Abigail.

Lies Sleeping (2018) 

This is the seventh Rivers of London novel. And it’s set in 2014, because the story moved slower than real publishing time.

You can read this if you haven’t read the novella or comics, but if you haven’t read the previous books? Forget it.

The story opens with the following epigraph.

The best revenge is not to become like your enemy.

First things first, a WHOLE bunch of threads get tied up in this story.

Second, Guleed has become a regular member of the Folly, which pleases me to no end, since I adore her.

(discussing a martial arts form Guleed just used)

“Did it work?”

“I think so.”

“Can you teach me?”

She laughed. “Michael specifically said I wasn’t allowed to. No matter what you said.”

“Why not?”

“Because Nightingale called him up and told him to refuse if you asked.”

“Did he say why?”

“Because you should master at least one tradition before you move on to the next,” said Nightingale, coming up the corridor.

That exchange pretty well sums up Peter. He always wants to learn something new, which is, I think, why I love him so much.

Contrary to what people think, I haven’t actually memorized the location of every historically significant building in London.

The other thing I especially like about this story is how it revels in the bureaucracy.

Leaving aside dumb luck, criminals are mainly caught by systems, not individuals.

A database that I was happy to assure the Data Protection Agency was impervious to unauthorized access on account of it being confined to old-fashioned index cards in a rather nice polished walnut filing cabinet in the upstairs magical library.

They still made me fill in my own body weight in forms.

“We seem to be sitting around waiting for the next fucking disaster,” he said, which went into the official log as— DCI Seawoll felt that our operational posture was too reactive.

The other thing I especially enjoy about this series are the running jokes–such as those around Dr Waleed.

As far as me and Postmartin could tell from the existing records, this was true. Which meant that she was supposed to have died in 1802. Which meant that it was possible that in some way she’d caught practical immortality from her husband. Something that Lady Ty didn’t think was possible.

Doctors Vaughan and Walid wanted a tissue sample.

I also want to note something important about this series. It is chock full of characters who are not white males. But there isn’t a big deal made about it, it just so happens that the characters reflect the world at large, and that makes the story all the more interesting.

As I noted at the start, a LOT happens in this book, and it’s possible the story could end here, and I think I’d be okay with that. Sure, I’d like to spend more time with Peter and Bev and Nightingale. And I’ve love to find out more of Nightingale’s past. But I’d also be okay if the series ended here.

Publisher: DAW

(2019) | Rating: 8.5/10

Audio Book (2018) narrated by Kobna Holdbrook-Smith

I picked up a lot I missed the first time around. I remember it being late, and needing to go to bed, but I just need to know more….

So, I caught a lot this time.

False Value (2020)

False ValueThe 8th Rivers of London book.

It’s been two years since the last book about Peter (although there have been comics) and although I was impatient, I didn’t mind, because my assumption was it was taking a long time so he could get it right (rather than publishing to meet a scheduled and not have the book he wanted). I suppose it could have been something else, but I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Not to say that I wasn’t confused and a little worried when I started the book, because I was confused and not quite sure what was happening.

The story opens with Peter interviewing for a job with the Serious Cybernetics Company. And yest, the entire company is just rolling with Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy things (Peter has to wear a towel around his head the first day.) This was confusing, since it came out of left field.

So the first section of the book jumps back and forth in time as we see just how Peter ended up job hunting.

Also, Beverly is pregnant with twins, and Peter is now living with her and not at the Folly.

So. This book.

First and foremost, it is everything you expect from a Rivers of London book.

“No,” she said. “I don’t want a personal friend in Jesus.”

I showed her my warrant card.

“But have you let the Metropolitan Police into your heart?” I asked.

Peter is snarky as usual, but even better…

As a wise man once said— I believe in coincidence, coincidences happen all the time, but I don’t trust coincidences.

HE QUOTED GARAK FROM DS9.

But the snark–Peter’s snark is my favorite snark.

From the kitchen behind us I could hear various chopped comestibles being tossed around in a wok. Which at least meant we weren’t going to be having McDonald’s— you hear stories.

It is everything I want a Rivers of London book to be. I hope we don’t have to wait two more years for the next, but as long as he keeps writing good stories, I’ll be patient.

Publisher: DAW

(2020) | Rating: 8/10

Audio Book (2020) narrated by Kobna Holdbrook-Smith

I enjoyed the story the first time through (because it almost impossible for me not to enjoy Ben Aaronovitch’s writing combined with Kobna Holdbrook-Smith’snarration) but I believe I appreciated it more this time, as I caught details and listened for the inside jokes.

The October Man (2019)

The October ManLet me be clear: This is NOT a Peter Grant story.

It’s set in the same world, and Peter and Nightingale are mentioned, but it’s about another character entirely, policeman Tobias Winter, an investigator for the Abteilung KDA, the German equivalent of the Folly.

I ended up in the Abteilung KDA because I didn’t talk myself out of it fast enough, and because the Director has a vile sense of humour. I ended up learning magic because you can’t trust the British to keep to an agreement over the long term.

I’ll be honest, I went not expecting a lot, mostly because the last several Rivers of London comics have been lousy.

With those expectations, I was pleased.

One of the things I was happy to find were the wry asides I love so much.

A Mercedes C-class went past me with a forgotten mug still on the roof— the smell of coffee mingling with the exhaust. I watched with amazement as the mug stayed on as the car took a hard left— perhaps it was magnetised.

Farmers make the best murderers because they have totally legitimate access to everything from plastic sheeting to industrial strength chemicals and heavy digging equipment. And, of course, stretches of land out of the prying eyes of strangers.

I’m certain there are plenty of people who will be pissed that this is not a Peter Grant story, and why is Ben Aaronovitch wasting his time on these side stories, but I am completely ok with this.

First, I think that he has more stories than he can tell, and I really like this side treks. Second, I’d rather have a well-done Peter Grant story, than something he felt he had to write solely to please fans. We weren’t left with a cliff-hanger at the end of the last book, so if he wants to take these side journeys, I’m perfectly content with that–especially if those journeys are going to be fun and entertaining like the early comics and this novella.

I also really like the glimpses into the German side of things, including the hints at what the German practitioners were up to during the way, and how the war shaped both groups in totally different manners.

Publisher: Subterranean Press

(2019) | Rating: 8.5/10

Audio Book (2019) narrated by Sam Peter Jackson

There has been a strange death, and Tobias Winter is investigating, much as Peter would in London.

Tales from the Folly: A Rivers of London Short Story Collection (2020)

Tales from the FollyThis is a collection of Rivers of London short stories. About half the stories are are Peter stories, the others features other characters from the world, including Abigail and Dominic Croft (from Foxglove Summer).

Each story has an introduction that tells you where it happens in the Rivers of London timeline.

A Rare Book of Cunning Device was an audible original, and I adore hearing Kobna Holdbrook-Smith’s voice when I read it (his voice is forever Peter to me and I can listen to the books over and over).

To be clear, these stories are NOT for people new to the series. You won’t get any of the jokes and will be lost. Instead, these are little glimpses into the Rivers of London world for those who are already fans of the series.

The only exception to this might be A Dedicated Follower of Fashion, since it doesn’t have any of the usual characters, but I think you’d need to know the world to enjoy it, since much of it builds upon an understanding we already have of how the world works.

My favorite story is “Three Rivers, Two Husbands and a Baby” because we get Dominic & Victor’s wedding as well as the result of, well, an incident that happened in Foxglove Summer.

As always, Peter’s snarkiness is one of my favorite things.

‘I’m interested in history,’ I said. ‘Why don’t you tell me what happened.’

‘Why would a young man like you be interested in history?’

‘So I can avoid repeating it.’

So, unlike other short story collections, this is NOT a place to start if you are unfamiliar with the books-=he isn’t that kind of short story writer–but it is a lot of fun.

Publisher: JABberwocky Literary Agency, Inc

(2020) | Rating: 7/10

Audio Edition narrated by: the author, Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, Ben Elliot, Felix Grainger, Sam Peter Jackson, Alex Kingston, Shvorne Marks, and Penelope Rawlins

Each story has an introduction that tells you where it happens in the Rivers of London timeline.

What Abigail Did That Summer (2021)

What Abigail Did That SummerSet concurrently with Foxglove Summer.

Abigail Kamara learned discovered what magic is, and now that she knows, she’ll do anything to learn it–including taking and mastering Latin.

If you’ve read the Rivers of London books, you already know just how marvelous Abigail is.

I stayed in the café and made some notes in my Falcon diary. Peter gave me my first one because he knew that getting me involved in magic was the only way to keep me out of trouble. This one was diary number three, but only because I write small.

If you haven’t read them, I believe you could read this without too much difficulty, because Abigail was only on the periphery of the series up to that point, and so her world is quite different from Peter’s.

The fox is sitting in my lap and still nuzzling my chin, which is beginning to vex me so I tell it to stop.

“Don’t you like that?” says the fox. The voice is slightly wheezy and pitched high. I suspect this is a vixen. “In training they said it promoted co-operation in humans.”

What Abigail Did That Summer map

It also becomes quite clear why Nightingale has allowed Abigail access to the Folly: if he can keep somewhat of an eye on her he might be able to reduce the amount of danger she gets into.

This is a fun and delightful novella, and my thanks to Tania for getting it for me, when I last I looked there wasn’t even a pub date for the ebook available. :)

Publisher: Subterranean Press

(2021) | Rating: 8.5/10

Audio Book (2021) narrated by Shvorne Marks and Kobna Holdbrook-Smith

 First, this is Abigail’s story. Peter doesn’t make an appearance (although we see Nightingale and hear from Postmartin).

Second, this story jumps back and forth in time, opening with Abigail at a police station, and then jumping back to how she got there. I definitely picked up more the second time around.

Amongst Our Weapons (2022)

Amongst Our WeaponsIt’s been two years since the previous full Rivers on London book, although in between we had a story set in Germany, comics, short stories, and Abigail’s novella.

And I am GREAT with all that.

Did I want to know what was happening with Peter? Of course I did. Was I impatiently wanted the next book? Of course I was. But if Ben Aaronovitch needed to write those other stories before he could get to this Peter Grant novel? I am TOTALLY fine with that. I’d rather he take longer giving us a great story than he give a mediocre story to meet deadlines.

Is this great? I’ll probably need to listen to the audio before I give my final decision, but my first judgement is that I enjoyed the hell out of this story.

Or, more precisely, we pried them out of their reluctant fingers by promising that everything that needed logging or signing would be logged and signed, and that the chain of custody would be maintained yea, even unto the end of days, or the first court appearance— whichever came first.

Pure Peter.

Plus Guleed!

(B)efore the PC on the passenger side got a chance to ask Guleed why she was loitering while wearing a hijab in a built-up area, the driver leaned forward to get a look at us and recognized me.

I utterly adore the way casually calls out racism.

ALSO: I will need to go back to the earlier books, but he also does something I’ve not seen frequently–but should see more.

a hefty-looking white woman with sharp blue eyes

He was a white man, looked to be in his fifties, with thinning brown hair cut short, regular features, pale gray eyes

Phillip was a young-looking forty-year-old white man with black hair and light brown eyes.

She was a tall, hippy white woman

It turned out to be a white woman in late middle age

typical London office jockeys, mostly white, mostly from affluent suburbs

The nervous young white man with floppy hair who served as receptionist

a small white woman in a gray zip-up hoody.

a teenaged white girl dressed incongruously in a blue knit twinset and pearls and a blond pageboy wig.

“Hallo, darling,” said a white person with an androgynous face, blue-black hair, and a raven perched on their shoulder.

None of that has to do with the story, but it is with why I love his books so much.

This story has Leslie returned, an avenging angel, and so very many tips to Monty Python, which I initially blanked on despite the name of the book.

And of course Peter remains Peter.

On approach the clean lines fooled me into thinking they were 1920s Art Deco, but as I got closer the brash white-brick pilasters that shot up two stories topped by Corinthian capitals gave it away as late Victorian.

I was struck by one particular passage, with regard to how things might become truly lost.

When I asked Nightingale where it was now, he said he didn’t know.

“I wasn’t told,” said Nightingale. “Nobody who went out into the field was given that sort of information. What we didn’t know we couldn’t reveal under interrogation.”

I did enjoy it very much, but now desperately want to relisten to the entire series: so many lovely lovely hours of Kobna Holdbrook Smith in my ears.

Publisher: DAW

(2022) | Rating: 8/10

Audio Book (2022) narrated by Kobna Holdbrook-Smith

I sped through this when I read it in the spring, so I there were plenty of things I picked up this time around, since I was listening.

Winter’s Gifts (2023)

Winter's GiftsKimberly Reynold’s met Peter Grant during Whispers Underground, and they have kept in touch since.

Probably because Kimberly is now stuck dealing with all the Weird Stuff.

I wasn’t sure how I felt about a whole book with Kimberly.

Mama is not a fan of the federal government, although she makes an exception for the military, the post office and, more recently, Medicare.

Turns out, I enjoyed it quite a lot. Especially the snark about the US.

“There’s no mesocyclone!” shouted Bill. “That had better be down to magic, or otherwise we can kiss goodbye to the laws of thermodynamics.”

“They’ll have to rewrite all the textbooks,” I said, marveling at how calm I was given the circumstances.

“Nah,” said Bill. “The science has to be obsolete for at least twenty years before they do that. Forty years, if we’re talking about Texas.”

A heavily armed group of men and women in camouflage, body armor and advanced combat helmets were milling around in front of the emergency center. They might have been state troopers, National Guard, or even local deputies. After twenty-five years of the military equipment reutilization program, it can be hard to tell them apart—especially since many small departments don’t even bother to dye the camouflage blue.

I feel like this story was written not because Ben Aarnonvitch wanted to spend time with Kimberly Reynolds, but because he got curious about how the magical systems of Native Americans might work.

And then he wanted to spend time with Kimberly Reynolds.

I enjoyed this very much, and now I want to spend more time with Kimberly Reynolds.

Publisher: Subterranean Press

Rating: 8/10