London and urban fantasy seems to come up enough for it slowly to becoming a trope (or a cliché depending on your love/tolerance but a cliché that works in my opinion). Not only is London a diverse and internationally recognised city it’s old enough to have a life of its own.
And it’s that heartbeat that powers Aaronovitch’s tale (as all good urban fantasy about London does). This time we get a police procedural mixed with the supernatural as Peter Grant probationary police constable’s career takes a different turn when he comes across a body and a while later comes to the attention of Chief Inspector Nightingale, the last Wizard in England.
Now listening to a book does give you a different feel for it as the reader in your own mind doesn’t get a look in. I have to say that I love being read to and Kobna Holdbrook-Smith encompasses not only Peter Grant but the other characters he voiced along the way. He has a gruff London accent as he read but could easily sound creepy as he read the dialogue of… oh I’d better not say. But it was very atmospheric especially towards the climax.
There was a point when I was reading that I wondered what the opening had to do with what was going at that point as we seemed to have moved into something unrelated. I didn’t have to wait long. Aaronovitch played me like a fiddle. For a debut (though it’s not his first novel as he’s written a few tie-ins) I’m impressed by not only story which has lots of twists and turns to be compelling and surprising but also the atmosphere and character he injects. Aaronovitch truly captures the spirits of London.
From the opening you’d have to wonder where the rivers part of Rivers of London comes from but Peter and the audience are introduced quite expertly to the power of the Thames and its many children.
By using Grant as a novice magician (it’s better than transferring to the Case Progress Unit) we get to see the revelations that Peter is exposed to as well as seeing him introduce those concepts to his friend and colleague WPC Lesley May who is on bottom of the mundane side of murder investigation.
Aaronovitch packs a lot, but not too much, into his tale. Avoiding cliché and creating new myths of his own. I’ll never look at the Thames quite the same again.
The only negative I can think of is that even though the next one, Moon Over Soho is out I’ve got a wait for a little while until it’s read by Kobna Holdbrook-Smith but I have a feeling that it’s going to be worth it.