Rivers of London (2011) – Ben Aaronovitch

Rivers of London, originally released as Midnight Riot before it was retitled to launch the continuing series of novels it spawned, was a wonderful surprise and a complete joy to read, and a fantastic introduction into the genre of urban fantasy. PC Peter Grant is afraid he’s going to end up doing administrative duty once his probation is over, but a brutal beheading and a chance encounter with a ghost open up a whole new world to the young officer.

He finds himself apprenticed to the only Inspector in an unspoken of section of the London police. A section that deals with magic, and all that, as one of his higher-ups call it, that x-files crap. As Peter works to learn the ropes while still maintaining the Queen’s Peace, he learns that magic and the paranormal is nothing like Harry Potter, and a lot more dangerous.

As he investigates a growing series of murders, he has to deal with spirits, revenants, creatures of the night, vampires, and the physical embodiment of the rivers of London.

Within the first tenth of the book, I had already laughed aloud countless times, as Aaronovitch has created a character that is aware of all the things we are, in terms of pop culture, and remarks upon them, while working to solve a truly brutal series of murders.

Sharp-witted, smartly crafted, this is one of those novels that wrap you up completely in its world. By the time I was done the first novel, I was so ready for the next, so it’s a good thing I put it on hold at the library when I was only a quarter of the way through this one.

Even with lots of humour, or because of it, Aaronovitch has created a believable character, and world that co-exists with the daily grind of London life. And his case will lead him all over the city, from Covent Gardens to the very beginning of London itself, as he pursues his suspect, falls for a water nymph, and works to save the soul, life, and body of his best friend, fellow constable, and long term crush, Leslie May.

With Inspector Nightingale serving as his mentor, Peter (with us tagging along) learns the rudimentaries of magic, negotiates with river goddesses, and finds himself caught up in a truly sinister reminaging of a classic British entertainment.

With pop culture references that run the gambit from Doctor Who to Star Wars, Aaronovitch delivers a brilliantly funny and engaging magical crime procedural that delivers on its promises, and lays the groundwork for more stories to come. If you haven’t read them, and are looking for something a little different, but oh so much fun, check out the Rivers of London, and dive into the rest of the series (I’m waiting for that second book Toronto Library!)!

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