diamond geezer

 Thursday, January 05, 2012

Rivers of London (by Ben Aaronovitch)
It shouldn't work. A crime novel about a slightly parallel London in which strange creatures exist and the police can do magic. Stupid idea. And yet, I'd say, it absolutely works. For the first few pages Rivers of London could be any crime novel, but then a thespian ghost turns up and the narrative shifts. Our hero is police officer Peter Grant, your average mixed race copper with a sideline in wry humour, who by chapter two has been enrolled in an obscure section of the force devoted to the supernatural, and by midway is deep into apprentice wizardry (so long as he can get his Latin up to GCSE level). The plot gruesomely twists an arcane slice of Georgian theatre with the slightly bonkers idea that Father Thames has a nemesis called Mama Thames who lives in an apartment in Wapping. Various sub-characters are named after London's rivers, including the voluminous and slinky Beverley Brook, with whom the narrator almost gets entangled. Like I say, it shouldn't work, but the whole thing's wittily done, and with sufficient background knowledge to make the whole thing believable. One suspects that the author has never been a half-Nigerian policeman, for example, but sufficient details of African cuisine and Met procedure duly convince.
(OK, it's not new, it's been out for a year now, but I'm the sort of cheapskate who likes to wait for the paperback)
(OK, the paperback's been out since August, but hey, I'm slow sometimes)

Ben's not new to writing. He's done a bit of Casualty, and some Blake's 7 spin-offs, plus back in the 80s he was the man responsible for making Daleks float upstairs on Doctor Who. And Ben's name really is Aaronovitch, which is brilliant for any author who wants to get noticed alphabetically in bookshops. Pop into Waterstones in Covent Garden and Rivers of London is the very first book on your left... as well as prominently positioned in the science fiction section, the best sellers list and the "We recommend" shelves. But Ben's conspicuous presence here is perhaps not entirely surprising, given that he previously worked in this particular branch of Waterstones in Garrick Street. His novel spans the capital, from Purley to the Romford Road to Hampstead to Eel Pie Island, but the action keeps returning to the Covent Garden area he knows so well. I enjoyed the geographic reality of it all, and the unreality within, and the quick-witted smiles amongst the brutality. How great it would be if there was a series...

Moon Over Soho (by Ben Aaronovitch)
If you enjoyed book 1 there's already a book 2, brought out early by the publishing company in an attempt to create premature Aaronovitch addicts. This time the action focuses around Soho and peculiar activities therein, so naturally includes sex, ambulance chasing and jazz. That's jazz vampires, to be more precise, especially those with a taste for Forties swing. I haven't quite finished this book yet, I only managed 250 pages yesterday, but it maintains the high standard of the first with some credibly detailed characters and a generous helping of imagination.
(OK, this isn't new either, it's been out since April, and the paperback's been out since October)
(but hey, I waited until the pair were 1/3 off at Waterstones and bought both simultaneously)

Whispers Underground (by Ben Aaronovitch)
Ben's currently finishing off a follow-up, due in the spring, and occasionally seeking help on Twitter to make sure he's got his Latin conjugations correct. Looks like a tube-related sub-theme this time, judging by the title and the cover design.
(sorry, I'm holding out for the paperback in November, because I'm damned patient like that)
(if you like this sort of thing, the ever-wonderful Christoper Fowler has a new novel out today, and I am so buying a copy this evening)

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