Author: Ben Aaronovitch
Rating: 5 Stars
Dates read: 01 Apr 19 – 04 Apr 19
Publication date: 21 Apr 2011
Genre(s): Fantasy, Mystery, Crime
The song. That’s what London constable and sorcerer’s apprentice Peter Grant first notices when he examines the corpse of Cyrus Wilkins, part-time jazz drummer and full-time accountant, who dropped dead of a heart attack while playing a gig at Soho’s 606 Club. The notes of the old jazz standard are rising from the body—a sure sign that something about the man’s death was not at all natural but instead supernatural.
Body and soul. They’re also what Peter will risk as he investigates a pattern of similar deaths in and around Soho. With the help of his superior officer, Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale, the last registered wizard in England, and the assistance of beautiful jazz aficionado Simone Fitzwilliam, Peter will uncover a deadly magical menace—one that leads right to his own doorstep and to the squandered promise of a young jazz musician: a talented trumpet player named Richard “Lord” Grant—otherwise known as Peter’s dear old dad.
I was completely blown away and taken aback by the dark humour and complex magic that was found in Rivers of London and fell in love with this unusual magical world that Ben Aaronovitch was creating in his narrative. I thought the second instalment would fall short because I was somewhat expecting the humour and the magical elements, but I am pleased to say that this book was as eclectically weird and funny as the first, and even though I couldn’t hear the words emanating from the pages, I could feel the soul within the pages from start to finish.
The story sort of picks up from the first book, so we’re plunged into the magical after effects of the first book on the characters, including the relationship between police officers Peter Grant and Lesley May. The romantic element which I read into their relationship is a little fractured after the facial damages Lesley suffered, but their comic timing and intuition that allows them to function brilliantly as partners is still alive and fresh and underpins the unusual story well. The relationships between Nightingale, Molly, Dr. Walid, and Peter are also equally as strong, and I think now as we are more in tune with the characters and their magical quirks, we are able to enjoy their interactions in more detail. I liked that we also got a little more backstory into the characters – from meeting some of Lesley’s family, to spending time with Peter’s unusual girlfriend Simone.
I have to say that even though this book is probably more weird and nonsensical that the first, I feel myself going with it and being pulled along for the ride. This book literally contains half cat/half humans, it contains women with, well, vaginas that attack the penis of the victims, and follows their weird and eclectic lives and interactions and this seems completely normal within this world.
I say ‘this world’ like it’s different. Yes, we still have the unusual humanised father and mama Thames and their families/tributaries and the aforementioned magical beings, but the story itself largely takes place in London – our London – London now. This grounds the magic in reality and stops us having to go along with a new world and species order and I think this is what makes this book so unique and so great. The seemingly ridiculous and fantastical are unusual and complex, but because the world is recognisable it isn’t too much to buy into and completely tracks within the book’s internal logic.
As much as I loved this book and narration, because I really did and still think that Kobna Holbrook-Smith is the PERFECT person to narrate this, I didn’t think it was quite as good as the first. I think a new reader would have struggled to embrace the story and the world if they hadn’t read the first book which means it really cannot stand as anything other than a second book in a series. I could feel strands being set up that weren’t completed in this narrative, and while this is OK and I am excited to explore them, it was slightly irritating to start elements and know that they would not be concluded within the course of this book.
I don’t want to go too much into this plot, because it is a riotous ride that has to be experienced. I love these books and this world, and love that when I am listening to them I genuinely laugh out loud and don’t want to stop. I can’t recommend them enough, so if you have never experienced these books or the genius that is Aaronovitch’s writing, what are you waiting for?