Sunday, December 02, 2012

Book Review: Rivers of London

Ben Aaronovitch's Rivers of London is not a book about the rivers of London, though in a very unreal sense it is about the rivers of London.

The tag line is "Harry Potter grows up and joins the fuzz" - aka the bill, the boys in blue, the met, bobbies, plod or to give them their full title, the Metropolitan Police force.

But that isn't right either, as the hero, Peter Grant is no Hogwarts educated orphan, but a true Londoner, born and bred in its council estates and comprehensive schools. Joining the force hoping for a career solving crime he's about to be moved sideways into paper pushing when he meets the only witness of a bizarre murder case, a ghost.

Soon he's sworn instead into the Met's specialist force to handle all the weird and wonderful of London, hidden in the bureaucracy as Economic and Specialist Crime Unit 9 or ESC9, and then out on the streets battling a malicious spirit while learning magic.

The rivers of the title are gods and goddesses ("real" ones, not the fantasy of Peter Ackroyd) namely mother and father Thames and all of their tributaries from hoity Tyburn to the sensual Beverly Brook (and it really adds zest to that line "I found a gun on Beverly Brook").

Its a great read, rattling across London like one of its underground trains, zippy language and plot.

And the real star is London itself, sprawling, magnificent, historic, modern, rich, poor, art, music, life, death, architecture, character, legends, its people and places.

Appropriately the cover of the UK edition is taken from Stephen Walter's The Island, its intricate minute drawings capturing the density of stories within this city. Alas in the US there is a different cover and title "Midnight Riot" which I don't think is as good.

But the book inside is as good in either, and there are two sequels to enjoy, "Moon over Soho" and "Whispers Under Ground".

Best read on the tube heading home late at night, but if that's not an option don't worry as it will transport you there.

One to put on the Christmas present list - for others and yourself.

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