Rivers of London/Moon Over Soho – Ben Aaronovitch

This is a joint review because I read the first two books in the Peter Grant series back to back in quick succession.

The first two books in the Peter Grant series

The first two books in the Peter Grant series

These books had caught my eye a few times while perusing book shops because their covers feature a map of London and as you might know; I love London. But reading the blurb I was put off by the supernatural element they contain. They struck me as a bit too oddball and not something I’d be interested in. But a couple of weeks ago I was feeling the need for something light and easy to read so I picked up the first book: Rivers of London (Midnight Riot in the US) and decided I’d have a go.

How glad am I that I did?!

The stories feature PC Peter Grant who is at the end of his probation with the Metropolitan Police as RoL begins. He is certain that he is facing an unexciting career of paperwork and minimal policing when guarding a crime scene he encounters a ghost. His subsequent hunting of said ghost brings him to the attention of one Thomas Nightingale, the sole member of a mysterious unit whose purpose is to police magical disturbances of the Queen’s peace.

Peter is then plunged into a bewildering world of river gods, Latin textbooks and spirits that just won’t stay dead. With him on the journey is his colleague WPC Lesley May and the rest of the somewhat reluctant Murder Team who keep getting landed with the fall out from magical happenings.

Despite being the sort of madcap happenings I often find it hard to stomach there’s something about these stories that make them feasible. It’s the same way that Harry Potter’s world could definitely exist in parallel to ours, an entirely believable imaginary world.

The books are excellent, the writing is light and buzzing with witty observations of London and life in general. Peter is a fantastic character who I warmed to immediately and the kind of guy who you end up feeling like you’re genuinely friends with. He’s not perfect, far too easily distracted for ordinary police work (especially if a woman’s involved) and something of a slacker when he can get away with it. But he has a scientific leaning (he got three Cs at A-level making him one of the Met’s scientific experts) which drives Nightingale mad but which I like a lot.

But there is no doubt that the main character in the series is London. The first book takes place mainly around Covent Garden whereas the second is a bit more widespread, reaching from Camden down to the wilds of Wimbledon (imagine how excited  I got about that!) Now I can imagine that if I didn’t know London I might find the constant name dropping (street names that is) annoying but as it is I knew many of them – I work close to the Folly, I’ve had a blood test done at UCH, I’ve drunk in one of the pubs from book 2 and I could often follow a route Peter was taking because I’ve spent a fair bit of time wandering the West End. But in case you don’t know London as well as I do, Ben Aaronovitch created these maps to help you orientate yourself: http://temporarilysignificant.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/maps How about that for service?! But if you’re reading this Ben, Mama Thames needs a daughter named Wandle to make me truly happy.

There’s two more books in the series, the latest of which was only published last week and yesterday I picked up book number three for the weekend. I’ve had to be very strict with myself and NOT start it.

Now follows some pictures of locations from book number 1:

This is the building n Russell Square that I imagine to be the Folly.

This is the building in Russell Square that I imagine to be the Folly.

This is UCH (University College Hospital), home to Dr Wahid and the scene of one of Peter's investigations

This is UCH (University College Hospital), home to Dr Wahid and the scene of one of Peter’s investigations

St Paul's Church where Peter meets his first ghost and comes to Inspector Nightingale's attention

St Paul’s Church where Peter meets his first ghost and comes to Inspector Nightingale’s attention.

And the rest of the Piazza at Covent Garden. If you've read the book you'll appreciate part of this image much more than the average viewer...

And the rest of the Covent Garden Piazza. If you’ve read the book you’ll appreciate part of this image much more than most…

The Royal Opera House, where the dramatic showdown takes place.

The Royal Opera House, where the dramatic showdown takes place.

And to prove London's not all beautiful buildings, here's our latest statue: a giant blue chicken.

And to prove London’s not all beautiful buildings, here’s our latest statue: a giant blue chicken.

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11 responses to “Rivers of London/Moon Over Soho – Ben Aaronovitch

  1. Wow these books sound awesome, I’m going to put the first on my wishlist right now for future reference. 🙂 I won’t get nearly as many of the London references as you, but hopefully I will pick up on a few!

    • They are great! And most of the setting is pretty central so you might know more than you expect 🙂 I don’t know Soho as well as the Covent Garden area so the second one wasn’t as familiar to me. The third one looks like it’s going to be heavily set on the Underground which should be amazing!!

  2. They are just great!

  3. I’ve just started reading Rivers of London after your post debating if you should buy Moon Over Soho, and I’m quite impressed. I used to read loads of fantasy/supernatural type stuff when I was at school, bu as I went to university this gave way to crime novels when I actually had the chance to read so it’s quite ice to read something like this again. I just wish the chapers were a little bit shorter because i end to do most ofmy ading before I go to sleep or when I’ve just woken up.

    • I’m so glad you like it, I’d hate to recommend something that disappoints! I’m the same as you, I read lots of fantasy when I was younger but then it sort of lost its appeal, I think I read one too many quest series and realised that they were all very similar which disillusioned me :(. I’m getting back into the fantasy a bit more now but I’m still wary of epic quests.

      I can see why that would be a problem but I struggle when the chapters are too short as well – a kind of ‘oh go on, one more won’t hurt, they’re only little’ thing!

      • Yeah I do that too. I always feel guliy if i spend a couple of hours watching a film, but never reading a book!

      • Haha, maybe because reading a book looks kind of academic but watching a film isn’t? These days I feel guilty doing anything that isn’t work (which is why I stopped reading at uni) but my commute gives me a couple of hours of guilt-free reading a day 🙂

      • I know what you mean, I feel guilty doig anything other than jobhunting.

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