Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch
12 September, 2013
Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch follows the adventures of Constable Peter Grant, fresh from completing his probationary period at the Met, who is called in to help with a murder in Covent Garden. There he encounters a ghost and is duly seconded to the ESC9 or Economic and Specialist Crime Unit 9 mostly known as The Folly. Headed by the enigmatic and suspiciously young Detective Inspector Thomas Nightingale, Grant soon becomes a part of an intimate group including a suspiciously pale Gothic Lolita with very sharp teeth named Molly who is really into recreating incredibly heavy Victorian dishes and a little yappy dog named Toby, who investigates supernatural and magical incidents ignored by the rest of the police.
CCTV cameras have caught images of a man beheaded by another whose face had suddenly transformed into something with a hooked nose and a long chin. Soon, other unprovoked attacks are reported including one where the perpetrator’s face has stretched and collapsed killing him too. Grant and Nightingale are drawn towards the theatrical legacy and feuds that litter Covent Garden and are soon on the trail of a malevolent spirit out for revenge.
Grant is also drawn into a territorial dispute between Mother and Father Thames and their separate offspring tributaries and needs to quickly learn how to navigate amongst the god-like folk who seem really easy to anger. Together with his by-the-book colleague Lesley May, on whom Peter has a little crush, and the wonderfully spontaneous Beverley Brooke, one of Mother Thames’ younger, bouncier daughters, Peter is in a race against time to bring the mad spirit under control and to stop all out war on the Thames.
Combining a supernatural mystery with an original take on London folklore, Aaronovitch has successfully managed to create something utterly original with traces of Gaiman, Mieville and Rowling, Rivers of London is a highly entertaining, informative and, dare I say, utterly enjoyable read.
I’m a huge fan of Christopher Fowler’s Bryant & May series that brings out the best of London’s varied and rich history and Aaronovitch does the same but with a twist of the supernatural.
Although the folklore and cultural history is a big draw, I particularly liked the characters Aaronovitch has created. Peter is a self-deprecating geek who loves his family and friends and Nightingale is an enigmatic sleuth and wizard moulded in the form of an ex-Oxbridge/Hogwarts junior prof. With a sympathetic and engaging protagonist who is symbolic of multicultural, multi-racial London, Aaronovitch has managed to do something new. Here’s to London’s newest apprentice wizard.
Although there has been a somewhat mixed reception amongst my friends regarding this series, the main one being that it’s a little too light and could use a little more depth, all of them have said they enjoyed reading Rivers of London and were impressed with the London Aaronovitch conjures.
I can’t wait to read the rest of the series!