When PC Peter Grant stumbles across a key witness with a first-hand account of a violent crime, he sees it as an opportunity to save himself from the tedium of a career in paperwork. The only problem – his witness is a ghost.
As a result of this encounter with the supernatural, Peter is swiftly recruited into a special unit within the Met police – designed to help solve the cases where fact and reason have failed. He soon discovers a whole new side of London policing, complete with rivers that walk on two feet and ghosts that steal people’s faces.
Ben Aaronovitch’s creation has all the lure of the paranormal combined with the mystery, suspense and action of the crime novel. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and it has the humour and wit that it needs to carry it along. It offers some light relief from some of the heavier crime fiction out there at the moment, and I can completely see why this series has been such a success.
There is obviously a strong supernatural element to this book, but for the most part, magic is presented as just a part of everyday life. Using magic is a skill that can be learned and mastered, just like any other. The people Peter meets are just like anyone else walking the London streets – if it wasn’t for the fact that they are entirely different beings altogether. He is recognised, somewhat reluctantly, by the police department as having a legitimate role in the force – albeit one that can and will be denied as quickly as possible if anything goes wrong.
There are two central cases that Peter tasked with in ‘Rivers of London’. Normally, you would expect these two threads to come together at the end, but although some elements briefly overlap, these stories are otherwise almost entirely separate. This does help to contrast the duel aspect of Peter’s new role – on one hand the deals with normal human cases, and on the other he polices the magical underworld of London – but it’s an odd way of approaching it.
All in all though, it was a really fun, enjoyable read and I’m looking forward to reading the next instalment.