Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch

Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch --- 298 pages

Peter Grant is a young mixed race constable in modern London. He's disappointed his family by flunking out of the advanced science courses that could have led to a university degree and successful career, because he has a tendancy to be too easily distracted by odd little details at critical moments. Now that same distraction could wind up relegating him to a back office job shuffling paperwork instead of the CID assignment he craves. Then he gets involved in the investigation of a seemingly random murder in Covent Garden, by obtaining a key piece of evidence from an eye witness --- who happens to be a ghost.

When the ghost lead pans out, Peter finds himself seconded to the Met's Specialist Crime Unit under the command of Chief Inspector Peter Nightingale, the Metropolitan's expert on matters seelie and unseelie, and the last practicing Wizard in London, of the school of wizardry established by Sir Isaac Newton. (Yes, that Sir Isaac Newton.) Nightingale undertakes to train Peter's supernatural apptitude as his apprentice in magic and criminal investigation.

It appears that the malevolent spirit of a murdered nineteenth century actor is taking over the minds of ordinary law-abiding citizens and orchestrating a series of violent assaults in the neighborhood of Covent Garden. The rampage culminate in a murderous attack on Nightingale that leaves Peter to cope on his own when the spirit commandeers a performance at the Royal Opera House and sends the performers and patrons out rioting in the streets.

As if he doesn't have enough on his plate, Peter also has to mediate a jurisdictional dispute between Mother and Father Thames before it results in a complete breach of the Queen's Peace. Aaronovitch not only knows his way around British Faerie and the history of magic and the occult, but the day-to-day inner workings of the Metropolitan Police, and just how to play one off against the other for comic effect. He looks like an excellent canddiate to join that very select group of writers who write really funny fantasy.

This is the first book in the Rivers of London series of urban fantasies.  Other books in the series are: Moon Over Soho, Whispers Underground, and Broken Homes (due to be published in the U.S. in February 2014).

A rollicking tale recommended to those who enjoy urban fantasy like Jim Butcher's Dresden Files or Charlaine Harris' True Blood (the books not the TV series), Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. Aaronovitch has also written a number of award-winning scripts for BBC programs Dr. Who on television and Blake's Seven on radio. He lives in London.

Check out his web site at www.the-folly.com

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