Wednesday, 14 March 2012

A Year in Books 2012 - Rivers of London

I needed a bit of a break from state of the nation American family saga novels , so took a chance with Ben Aaronnvitch's Rivers of London which a couple of friends had recommended.

The cover blurb wasn't promising mentioning a cross between a crime novel and a fantasy grown up Harry Potter type thing. As my shelves arent exactly bulging with the crime or fantasy genres it was with a bit of a shock that after about 20 pages I found myself hooked.

Peter Grant is a probationary constable in the Met until one evening he is on scene for a brutal murder, and surprised to be approached by a potential witness who claims to be a ghost.

He is soon transferred to a specialised unit run by Inspector Nightingale who also happens to be the last wizard in England. Peter has to swear a new oath of loyalty and become Nightingale's apprentice, called on by the Met's murder team when things get a bit too weird.

They are soon more murders piling up as the plot pulls on Thames folklore and the legends built up around Mr Punch.

What keeps the book going so well is how the police procedural and traditional crime solving are balanced by the casting of spells and emergence of magical characters. The magic element is underplayed to feel like it fits right in , especially as Aaronovitch includes a real sense of history and place around London, peppering the story with the cities real myths and legends. I learnt a lot of great stuff about some of the streets I walk every week. There is also a sense of cultural positioning, for example he tackles the Harry Potter thing full on , when the temptation must have been to pretend it didn't exist.

All of this told with a slightly cynical sarcastic edge and punctuated with occasional spurts of violence that reminds you suddenly you are reading an adult thriller

Like all series starts there are 3 elements , a whole lot of back story , the main plot and then seeds planted for the future, ie it could have been a bit of a mess. However Ben Aaronovitch gets the mix just right , the loose ends are tied up with enough left dangling to get me rushing out to read book two , The Moon Over Soho

You can buy both books here and the author has his own website about the books here


  1. Been poking around because you made it sound so entertaining, looks like Rivers of London is called Midnight Riot here in the states. Why do they do that?? Hope I've got the right thing, sounds like a good one.

  2. Hi Greer I know what you mean - a coupl eof times on hols I've got excited in a bookshop on discovery what i thought was a new book only to realise it was the same one with a different title/cover

    It is a good one although my view maybe skewed by the fact it is unlike the stuff i usually go for

  3. Finished it last night and I enjoyed it immensely. Everything you say- so inventive and I found myself laughing out loud many times. I also loved the detailed London setting and lore, which for me were more travelogue about a city I wish I could spend more time in. And now I can say for sure I think Rivers Of London is a much better title!

    Thanks so much for this, I too am off in search of the second one.

  4. Gald you liked it Greer. The next one is good as well although definitely written with the confidence that there will be a series rather than a one off (I've just seen there is a third one on its way)


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