God I love popcorn. I live in a state with a craft brewery every twenty feet and almost all of them are good. Because I know I am getting good beer almost anywhere I tend to gravitate toward the local breweries that serve popcorn. Fluffy, a lot of fun, and with absolutely no substance. Sure I will forget about it the next day, but know this; there is always room for popcorn.
So I read Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch. I should have read Rivers of London, but as a dumb member of the United States of America it was pretty obvious I would have passed right by this booky thinking it was a boring geography book so the editors were kind enough to change the title so it would jump out at me a bit more, promising both night time shenanigans and a riot. So, let’s give thanks for that.
Peter Grant is babysitting a crime scene when a damn ghost shows himself and claims to have witnessed the murder. Peter, whose future was looking like it would be spent bookkeeping for real cops, soon finds himself sucked into a secretive part of the London Police that deals the supernatural. Said department currently consists of one man, a wizard by the name of Nightingale, and Grant just happens to show the aptitude to apprentice under him. Lucky for us he brings his smart ass nature with him to the new job.
Two stories are going on here. There is a feud between personifications of rivers; The Old Man River himself and London usurper Mama Thames. One of Grant’s first duties is to find a way to mediate this dispute before a couple of supernatural entities go ballistic on each other, probably not a good thing for London. The main plot however involves something that is causing a wave of violence from unexpected people, murder and mayhem abound with something supernatural egging it on. It is up to Nightingale and Grant, along with their contact in the main department Leslie, (oh and an interested river nymph named Beverly) to track down the source, stop it, and all that jazz.
And it was great fun, mostly due to the strength of Peter as a narrator. He was funny as hell, a bit distracted at times, and a good three steps behind throughout. This gave the book a wonderful pace as our hero was always on the move trying to catch up. Not only is he over his head on the police matters, he is also learning that being a new magician is hard work. I enjoyed the way magic works in this one for the most part. I like a rational explanation for Latin being used in spells and I liked how hard it is, each ‘form’ takes weeks to learn; over the course of the book Grant only comes away with about three simple spells.
What I didn’t like was the little details of the plotting. The two separate story lines were not really tied together, and even where they crossed it felt forced. The supernatural entity that was behind the wave of violence was a cool idea , but in practice I never was able to make since of what it was; the red herring Grant followed for a while made more logical since than whatever it was he eventually had to go after. And I couldn’t even begin to make heads or tails out of the ending, eventually I decided to just be happy with the pieces I was able to put together.
So I am going to give this one three stars and state that I found it very enjoyable. I will move on with this series because I love popcorn and this is no worse than any number of Hollywood movies I have enjoyed. For the most part it was smart and well planned, and like any good blockbuster most of its holes are hidden behind awesome acts of magic and mayhem.
Audio – My first audio book, so just a few words about the narration. Overall, I really liked it. It was a bit jarring to hear the male narrator do a female voice at first but I quickly got used to it and he never overplayed it. Holdbrook-Smith has a great voice, was well paced and consistent in his speech. He was very good at switching between characters and I never felt lost. It is clear that I made a good choice to start my audiobook experience with; if all narrators are as good as him I will be very happy indeed.
Pauline reviewed this book as well, check it out!
All reviews of books by Aaronovitch.