(2011) Ben Aaronovitch, Gollancz, £12.99, hrdbk, 375pp, ISBN 978-0-575-09760-5
Following on from Rivers of London, this story continues with the character of Peter Grant . He is a Detective Constable in the London police, who has become an apprentice wizard, with a unit of the police that until recently only had one member, DCI Thomas Nightingale. Grant is the first apprentice wizard for fifty years. The two men work for a unit, overlooked and not talked about, charged with matters such as investigating practicing unsanctioned magic.
Investigating the body of a musician, Grant finds the imprint of magic use on it, in the form of the sound of a saxophone solo. Looking through the files, he finds a pattern of deaths among jazz musicians in London. Investing the case, takes him into contact with the entities of the Thames, corrupt night-club owners and a man whose face nobody can remember.
Grant is a likable first-person narrator. Through him, we get a sense of the everyday and the little things that make up the culture of policing. You get the impression that the author has researched this carefully, with observations about dealing with drunks on Friday nights and internal affairs management. This is what is great about the book. The narrative perfectly captures the juxtaposition of routine British life with the fantastic elements. The London setting has been researched very well, with side-details about the past of the city. Also the jazz background to the case, is another new angle that feels different to other urban fantasies.
These are the reasons that this novel appeals to me. It is the familiar device of a character finding they have to police a strange new world. Admittedly , this may not be as radical a re-working of the genre of urban fantasy as Kraken by China Mieville. But it is the leadís narrative voice and the freshness of the British setting that makes this book a pleasure to read and make me look forward to the next in this series.
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