Despite the double title, I’m only reviewing one book today, by Ben Aaronovitch–in England it’s Rivers of London, in the American printing it’s Midnight Riot, and if I hadn’t first heard of it by the British title, I might not have picked it up. Because let’s be honest–you had me at London! Since the plot involves ghosts and murder, it’s also a perfect read for R.I.P.
Peter Grant is a rookie cop in London, who one night finds himself taking a witness statement from a ghost in Covent Gardens. This eventually lands him as an apprentice wizard to Detective Nightingale, tasked with investigating supernatural crimes. The book centers around a string of brutal murders with an apparently ghostly cause, and a tense stand-off between Mama Thames and Father Thames, warring gods of the river.
The concept of this is so much fun and so clever. There’s a nice mix of the weird and the logical–as when Peter and Nightingale need a warrant to arrest a ghost, so naturally they go to a ghost official. The Rivers are great as well, as both Mama Thames and Father Thames preside over a clan made up of every smaller tributary and brook. This book has the kind of magic system and worldbuilding that makes me feel like I’m getting a glimpse into a much larger world with a complex history.
Since I review a lot of YA, I should probably mention this one is from the grown-ups section (if you didn’t pick that up from “brutal murders”). It’s pretty tame for adults, but there’s enough violence and sexual tension to make it feel not-YA.
I’m saying “sexual tension” because there are a couple underlying romance threads, but they never really go anywhere. Peter has a crush on his fellow rookie cop/friend Lesley, but it’s apparently unrequited and nothing much happens. He’s also definitely attracted to Beverley Brook, one of Mama Thames’ daughters, but again, never really develops! This book is the first in a series, so either of these threads could be setting something up for the next book, but I have to say they didn’t work for me much here. Peter’s interest in Lesley is too passive, and his interest in Beverley seems to be solely based on her physical appearance, and neither sets up for much of a romance!
The violence (odd though this might sound) worked better for me. Some nasty things happen, but Aaronovitch really doesn’t dwell on it, or describe it in the kind of excruciating detail that turns my stomach. I may be developing a higher tolerance, but on the whole it didn’t bother me much, and I’m usually fairly squeamish.
The unraveling of the mystery was well-done. My preference is usually for the cerebral solving of mysteries, putting all the clues together to unlock the puzzle. This was a little more about pounding the pavement and chasing down witnesses/perpetrators. Which is fine! But just noting it for other people with preferences. I wouldn’t say the book was ever slow exactly, but there were some times when I noticed that a lot of pages and/or a lot of book chronological time had gone by without really getting closer to solving the mystery. This may be just my perception though–I’ve been reading Poirot and watching Castle and Beckett, and they tend to solve all murders within three days! And this book did offer some exciting chases and tense moments, and a solid ending.
On the whole, if you like murder mysteries and ghosts and can handle a little blood–and especially if you like books set in London!–I’d give this one a recommendation.
Author’s Site: http://www.the-folly.com/
Buy it here: Midnight Riot