Author: Ben Aaronovitch
Publication Date: 2/1/11
Publisher: Del Rey
Blurb(GR): Probationary Constable Peter Grant dreams of being a detective in London’s Metropolitan Police. Too bad his superior plans to assign him to the Case Progression Unit, where the biggest threat he’ll face is a paper cut. But Peter’s prospects change in the aftermath of a puzzling murder, when he gains exclusive information from an eyewitness who happens to be a ghost. Peter’s ability to speak with the lingering dead brings him to the attention of Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale, who investigates crimes involving magic and other manifestations of the uncanny. Now, as a wave of brutal and bizarre murders engulfs the city, Peter is plunged into a world where gods and goddesses mingle with mortals and a long-dead evil is making a comeback on a rising tide of magic.
I have to admit that a moderate portion of my liking for this book is probably due to the fact that I am one of those Americans who is instantly charmed when faced with a page of British slang and references. I don’t know if it’s in the genetic memory or what, but I pathetically cannot help myself! Guh…it’s like thar speakin’ mah language but diffrint! However, this book isn’t just a compendium of British slang. I found quite a lot more to love within these pages.
Peter Grant is a young constable with the London Metropolitan Police who has just completed the required stint as a street cop and is about to be assigned to a higher duty. He’s hoping for something flashy like the murder squad, but is disappointed to learn that he will instead be asked to make a “valuable contribution” as a paper pusher. But fate takes him in a different direction one night when he ends up interviewing a ghostly eye witness to a strange murder. Soon he’s signing on as apprentice to the enigmatic Inspector Nightingale of the Economic and Specialist Crime Unit, where he must begin training in magic, arrange a truce between two river deities, and track down a raging revenant.
This book is hilarious, in a dry and silly way that will appeal to fans of Terry Pratchett. The main character is a young man, with a love of risk, high definition television, and his petite blonde coworker (not to mention the flirty river spirit), but he’s also cunning and analytical. It’s exciting to see him come into a world inhabited by ancient beings and traditions, and breathe new life into it with his more contemporary attitudes. He’s a science geek! He ponders the force required to levitate an apple, and where that energy might come from; he runs sensitivity trials on his own magic; and he counters the magic of an enemy using wave interference. He really comes across as authentically young, but clever. Here is one of my favorite quotes:
”I’d like to say that I remembered the practice of exchanging hostages from school history classes or from stories of precolonial life in Sierra Leone, but the truth was that it came up while playing Dungeons and Dragons when I was thirteen.”
He tends to view everything and everyone in a humorous light, but he has a complicated relationship with his family, and there’s a bit of mystery surrounding his past and why he ultimately decided to join the police that I can’t wait to find out more about. Basically, I love everything about this guy. I wish that there had been more explanation about how the magic works, but I understand that that’s probably in the cards for later books in the series. I’m really looking forward to some more mad science out in the carriage house!
I’m not sure if I would classify this as urban fantasy, but I guess it’s more like that than anything else. It reads like a humorous police procedural with just a dash of the paranormal. So, I wouldn’t go into this expecting lots of thrilling action or heavy magic use.
Perfect Musical Pairing
Belle & Sebastian – Funny Little Frog
I’ve just been informed that Scotland and England are actually both a part of the U.K. So yay! This is a love song for an imaginary girlfriend, which is just perfect because I have a little announcement: I am officially throwing over my current fictional boyfriend for one Peter Grant, science geek, constable, and apprentice wizard. Sorry Gilbert, but we’ve had a good twenty one years. I’d be lying if I said that things haven’t gotten a little dry lately. I mean seriously, I’ve had Anne of Windy Poplars on my currently-reading shelf for over a month. Look at this guy…he runs validation studies on his own magic powers and uses fun words like, “faffing, “gastropub,” “knickers,” and “fancy” (as a verb!). Can you really blame me?