(2022) Ben Aaronovitch, Gollancz, £18.99, hrdbk, 406pp, ISBN 978-1-473-22666-1
This is another instalment of the authorís humorous Rivers of London series and, like the others, it is basically a light-hearted police procedural but with added magic. So far, I have found this series to be pleasant and entertaining reading. If you have read any of the series then I can safely say this is more of the same and if you enjoyed those then you will enjoy this one.
Detective Constable Peter Grant works for the Special Assessment Unit of the Metropolitan Police Force and they deal with the cases designated as Falcon. This is a code word meaning that something very strange is involved - and that strangeness is probably magic of some sort. Such things are best avoided and the ordinary Police are very happy to pass the buck to someone else! In this case, David Moore, a customer visiting the extremely secure London Silver Vaults, had suffered a sudden and violent death; all the only witness saw was a flash of light which befuddled his memory. When he recovered sufficiently he found that somebody, or something, had plucked Davidís heart out. The security systems were all fried and there is no sign that anyone else had either entered or left the vaults. Strangely, Peter and his trainee, DC Danni Wickford, can find no trace of vestigia, i.e. of magic, despite this being the only explanation that makes any sense to them. If the vestigia has been sucked away, it implies that the culprit was very, very powerful - and that is very, very worrying. They do, however, learn that the victim had been trying to trace a particular ring, one engraved with mystical, alchemical symbols, which he thought had been sold by his ex-wife.
Following procedure, they visit Althea Moore and find that she still possess the ring though she is strangely reluctant to let anyone else even touch it. Peter and Danni can both feel it has vestigia but when they return the next day to assess the ring further they find it has been stolen during the night, though Althea is very vague about it. Peter knows the signs, she has been enchanted. Phone records show that, shortly before his demise, David Moore had been urgently trying to contact one Preston Carmichael and so they head over to his flat, only to find another victim with his heart magically plucked out. Clearing up after dinner that night, Peter receives an unexpected visit from a talking fox; she had found a letter for him at the Seven Sisters dead drop. It is from Lesley May, a one-time colleague of Peterís but now on the run for various, serious magical misdemeanours, and it contains a warning to watch his back as something powerful and strange is responsible for the killings.
As they learn more they find that there are seven of these rings and all their owners are imminently threatened by a similar death. But what is the significance of the rings? Who is quietly stealing them and who is using powerful magic to kill their owners? In the company of hard-bitten DCI Alexander Seawoll, their investigations take them north to Manchester in search of the Sons of Wayland, once the metal workers of British wizardry, but there the mystery only deepens. Can they identify, let alone stop, the malignant force before more die? Can they apprehend whoever else is involved?
Meanwhile, back at home, Peterís partner Beverley (a local water goddess, in her case of the nearby Beverly Brook) is extremely pregnant. She is very, very close to delivering their twins and has made it very clear that there is no way Peter will not be there when he is needed! With a house full of river goddesses and Mama Thames herself, along with talking foxes, and not mention his own mother, Peter is under a lot of pressure not just to solve the case post-haste but to become the dutiful father.
The story ticks along nicely and the pages turned easily. We get introduced to various interesting characters, learn more of the history of the Folly (the home of the Special Assessment Unit) and its leader, DCI Thomas Nightingale (who is far older than he looks, and still getting younger). The story is gentle in its telling and the humour keeps it light. All in all, a good addition to the series.
See also Ian's take on Amongst Our Weapons.
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