(2017) Ben Aaronovitch, Gollancz, £12.99, hrdbk, 118pp, ISBN 978-1-473-22242-7
“There’s something going bump on the Metropolitan line...” so says the cover of The Furthest Station by Ben Aaronovitch, book seven in the Rivers of London series, though not quite a full novel, rather a 118 page long novella taking place between books five and six in the series, namely Foxglove Summer and The Hanging Tree which was published last year, after a two year gap, which did not go down too well with impatient fans of the series who had been treated to five books in four years, although there is a comic book series to keep them reasonably happy.
In this story, commuters are having ghostly encounters on their morning commute, with folks who are dressed strangely, talk a bit oddly, and have something urgent to pass on anyone who will listen, but those who do listen are left dazed and confused, and very quickly have no memory of ever having bumped into the supernatural. Even when played back the (very) odd call they made to the emergency services they seem to have no recollection of anything ever happening, and even making that call. So enter Sergeant Jaget Kumar who calls on PC Peter Grant for help and soon The Folly, who investigate creepy things that go bump in the night, are on the case, with Grant being helped by his governor, Detective Chief Thomas Nightingale, senior cop and wizard, and also being helped and hindered by young Abigail Kamara, as well as Toby, the ghost sniffing dog. With potential witnesses quickly losing their witness potential, it is perhaps best to stake out some trains and catch the ghosts in action. But why are these slight hauntings occurring and what are the ghosts trying to tell the commuters? Grant quickly susses out that there is a deeper mystery here, and perhaps a deadlier one with a life at stake, and perhaps the only way to find the answer is to go to the end of the line and the furthest station on the Metropolitan Line and a unique house called 'High and Over House' (which actually exists and Aaronovitch does ask his readers at the end of the tale not visit the house and annoy the owners and perhaps other things which lurk nearby).
Like previous books, this one features a multi-cultural cast which has always been one of Aaronovitch’s great strengths and lots of witty (i.e. slagging) banter between the cops, and ghosts aside, Grant actually gets to do some real detective work for a change. This is an enjoyable sideways step in the Rivers of London series with some of the other major characters not really making an appearance and some of the major story arcs, like those involving the Faceless Man not really getting much of a mention, although it would be wise to expect a river deity or two to crop up, but perhaps not as we have come to expect them. Seemingly, there are other novellas going to be published, with one called What Abigail Did That Summer (curiously set before this one) and another featuring the German version of the Folly, and book seven, Lies Sleeping (a working title), might be published in 2018 if we are lucky.
Fans of the series will enjoy this, and non-fans might find this a useful starting point. Aaronovitch was one of the guest of honour at this year’s Fantasycon and when I was having a chat with him, I mentioned how much I enjoyed the scene involving the ghost of a little girl called Alice that ends in a W. H. Smith. He replied that he enjoyed writing it, I think you’ll enjoy that scene too.
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