Constable Peter Grant sees “corporally challenged” ghosts, and learns werelight and fireballs from new boss, DCI Nightingale. They investigate killers whose faces, misshapen by “dissimulo” spells, fall to bits. Pretty Leslie Adams helps from the Murder Team. Nigerian Mama Thames, threatened by Old Man River, sends along lusty river sprite Beverley Brook.
On my Goodreads profile on the “favourite books” line it says: Well written ones, but often I’ll settle for entertaining. What it doesn’t say is that sometimes I’m just looking for something entertaining (disclaimer: basic grammar rules should always be adhered to).
That’s what I got here.
Probationary Constable Peter Grant dreams of being a detective in London’s Metropolitan Police. Too bad his superior plans to assign him to the Case Progression Unit, where the biggest threat he’ll face is a paper cut.
This is actually a sterilised version of the beginning of the book. Aside from using the first chapters to introduce the integral characters, Aaronovitch spends a lot of time fleshing out the procedural side of the drama. Expect to see lots of names and abbreviations that’ll come and bite you later if you forget them. Though, I must say, I miss the expression “bunny suit.”
But Peter’s prospects change in the aftermath of a puzzling murder, when he gains exclusive information from an eyewitness who happens to be a ghost.
And then there’s the paranormal side of this urban fantasy mystery. Like so many authors before him, Aaronovitch eases Peter into this new world exposing and explaining things as they come. There are ghosts, there’s magic, and there are deities that put a young man’s libido into overdrive.
Peter’s ability to speak with the lingering dead brings him to the attention of Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale, who investigates crimes involving magic and other manifestations of the uncanny.
This is what I liked. The magical—uncanny—side of the world is embraced but science isn’t thrown aside either. Peter has an inquisitive mind and he reacts like I’d expect any modern person to react: He tries to make the two sides of his new reality fit together. It’s an ongoing struggle but every now and then he figures out something new.
Now, as a wave of brutal and bizarre murders engulfs the city, Peter is plunged into a world where gods and goddesses mingle with mortals and a long-dead evil is making a comeback on a rising tide of magic.
Aaronovitch takes all these familiar elements and somehow fits them together. He doesn’t completely rewrite the legends or invent his own, he just takes what he needs and builds on it. He gives his narrator a snarky and entertaining voice, and a bit of a mystery to stretch your grey cells.
Seeing as this a British book about magic, the inevitable Harry Potter references do come up and are addressed in the same manner as most other popular culture references: They’re acknowledged, joked about, and put aside.
Saying that this is like seeing Harry Potter grow up and become a policeman is doing Peter Grant a disservice, after all, Harry never really fit in with the muggles.
P.S. Trigger warnings: [highlight to view the spoiler: Quite a nasty case of possession with gory aftereffects and a violent incident involving a baby.]