Fiction Reviews


The October Man

(2019) Ben Aaronovitch, Gollancz, £7.99 pbk, 180pp, ISBN 978-1-473-22432-2

 

Trier is famous for wine, Romans and for being Germany's oldest city. So when a man is found dead with, his body impossibly covered in a fungal rot, the local authorities know they are out of their depth.

Fortunately this is Germany, where there are procedures for everything.

Enter Investigator Tobias Winter, whose aim is to get in, deal with the problem, and get out with the minimum of fuss, personal danger and paperwork. With the help of frighteningly enthusiastic local cop, Vanessa Sommer, he's quick to link the first victim to a group of ordinary middle-aged men - and to realise they may have accidentally reawakened a bloody conflict from a previous century. But the rot is still spreading, literally and with the suspect list extending to people born before Frederick the Great solving the case may mean unearthing the city's secret magical history.

Just when you thought it was safe to open that bottle of wine Ė donít! Especially if we are in the wily, and not to be trusted hands of Ben Aaranovitch with the second in his 'Rivers of London' novellas, not really following on from the previous novella - The Furthest Station Ė or any of the previous seven (there has since been an eighth since The October Man was published) novels, as we are not on familiar ground dealing with unfamiliar things, but on unfamiliar ground as well, over in Germany with Peter Grant, Nightingale, and The Folly, barely getting a mention, which may be a disappointment to regular readers of the series.

This paperback edition is hot off the press, just hold it to your nose and flick through the pages. Ahhh, love that new book smell. I have another, hardback, addition of this title, purchased from Waterstones which features a bonus short story featuring Venessa Sommer going home for Christmas and deciding to suss out if the various haunts from her youth are magical in any way. Fear not, Rivers fan, that story and ten others are collected in Tales from the Folly available on Kindle or audiobook. But this paperback edition of The October Man is bang up to date as the back cover shows the previous seven novels in the series, as well as one novella and also the cover of the latest novel False Value, and letís not forget that there are six graphic novels collecting the 'Rivers of London' comics, and occasional rumours of a TV series.

The October Man is an enjoyable romp, with some deadpan humour and, while Iíve never visited Trier, it certainly feels that Aaranovitch has: he paints a realistic colourful picture of the locale, although he does put his hand up at the end to point out his additions and omissions. Winter is an engaging hero, and Sommer asks all the right questions so the info-dumping is relatively painless. Quibbles? For a 178 page novella, things become a bit rushed at the end when the magic comes to the fore, and possibly a bit hard to follow. Is there a proper denouement? Probably not, itís all a bit vague and inconclusive, but I fully expect to see more of Winter and Sommer in the future possibly in their own spin-off series, and Winter has to rub shoulders with Peter Grant at some point, hopefully not in another England vs. Germany clash which goes to penalties. Even so, my money has to be on the Brit.

Ian Hunter

See also Peter's take on The October Man.

 


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