Book Review: Rivers of London/Midnight Riot

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:

Other reviews:
Love Vampires
The Book Smugglers
Anyone else?

Buy it here: Midnight Riot


5 thoughts on “Book Review: Rivers of London/Midnight Riot

  1. I largely felt the same about this – it could develop into something good but it definitely felt like a first book. And agreed on the romance part! Both potential interests felt underdeveloped and I was seriously disappointed with the way things ended with Beverley. I also couldn’t tell what the author wanted his “relationship” with Lesley to be. Looking forward to reading the next one though.

  2. Good review, Cheryl! I’ve heard some good things about this series, but I haven’t read them yet. People seem to either really like them, or not like them at all. I’m still on the fence about reading them – which probably means I won’t, at least for a while.

  3. I thought this started well, but there was also a lot that felt unconvincing to me, even given that it’s about the supernatural! The mundane bits felt authentic enough (though heaven knows I’ve had precious little to do with police procedures!) and Peter’s magic practising was believable. But — as I said in my review ( — I found his slow picking up of the initial premise behind the murders puzzling: for someone like him, a graduate and reasonably well educated, not to make the associative leap at once wasn’t plausible, and this made suspending disbelief hard for me.

    But I’ve been told a couple of times that the sequels are worth following up, so in this case I won’t say ‘never again’!

    1. Interesting–sounds like you had some of the same trouble I did with the solution to the mystery taking a long-time to come together. I was willing to give it a pass, but it might be a bigger issue after all!

Share Your Thoughts

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s