Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch
Gollancz: paperback published 2011: 390 pages
This is London as you’ve never seen it before. A city full of wonders and terrors.
London is a city of ancient secrets, a city haunted by its past. A city where you are never far away from the magic.
And now meet the person who will show you the city you never suspected…
My name is Peter Grant, and I used to be a probationary constable in that mighty army for justice known to all right-thinking people as the Metropolitan Police Service, and to everyone else as the Filth.
My story really starts when I tried to take a witness statement from a man who was already dead.
There is something dark at the heart of the city I love…
Do you love the Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher? Do you adore Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman? Oh you do! Good. You can continue reading. (And if, by some horrifying mishap, you haven’t read the aforementioned books, then don’t continue – go away and don’t come back until you’ve read them!)
This is another one of those fabulous rip-roaring books that I simply adore. Meet Peter Grant, a Londoner born and bred, and a constable in the Metropolitan police. That’s where it starts to go wrong, really. Attending a murder scene near Covent Garden, Peter attempts to interview a ghost. And… well… it goes downhill from there. Meet vampires that turn the insides of your computer to sand, globes of light springing from your hand, and the rather imposing personification of a certain London river. Or, rather, Mum and Dad River (and they don’t get along very well!)
Cue shenanigans up and down London – including the tracking down of a rather unpleasant spirit who can make your face explode. Seriously.
There are the odd bits that are cringey – and predictable – but by the end of the book, you’re hooked. I finished it at about 11pm the other night, and had the urge to get the next in the series as quickly as possible (Moon Over Soho for those interested). Instead, I had to satisfy myself with the short story currently in the Waterstones edition (entertaining but brief – with a tongue in cheek nod to the Olympics that seems rather fitting).
It really reminded me of a British version of the Dresden Files (a series set in Chicago with a modern-day wizard private investigator as the protagonist), with splashes of Neverwhere (the river nymphs named after the rivers they represent for example), and with the right amount of humour and drama to keep me reading. It was quick and easy as a read, and thoroughly entertaining, reminding me why I do so love rip-roaring (urban) fantasy.
Light-hearted relief after the disappointment of Mockingjay.
Next book: Seeing as I will be in the presence of Mr Pullman himself at the end of October, as he discusses this very book, I figured I had better read up! (And the cover is just so beautiful) Next on the list is Grimm Tales: For Young and Old by Philip Pullman.