Thursday 28 March 2013

Rivers of London

I finished my first book for Carl's Once Upon a Time VII some days ago but have not had a chance to review it. In fact, I'm two books behind and if I'm not careful I'll be three. So, I'd better stop muttering and get on with it. My first book for the challenge is Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch.

Peter Grant is a police constable with the Metropolitan Police, just about to finish his probationary period. He's not a bad policemen but nor is he particularly good either. He thinks too much about other things while people like his colleague, PC Leslie May, are getting on with the job. She is destined for a proper police role in The Met, Peter it seems is destined for the Case Progression Unit, the boring, office side of policing where the only thing Peter will get to drive is a desk.

Then one night a murder takes place in the Covent Garden area of London. A man's face is ripped off in a manner no one has seen before. Left alone to guard the scene while Leslie goes to get coffee, Peter sees the ghost of a man from another age. The ghost witnessed the crime and saw the murderer change shape before he did the deed. Not knowing whether he should report this odd turn of events, Peter eventually does. And that brings him to the attention of a certain DCI Nightingale.

Nightingale is a wizard and heads the section of The Met known as The Economic and Specialist Crime Unit. Except that it's not much of a unit, it's just him and he investigates the weird and wonderful stuff. Suddenly Peter is not headed for the boring CPU, he's been recruited by Nightingale to join his unit and investigate the death of the man at Covent Garden. The case is weird all right. More murders follow and slowly a pattern starts to emmerge. It's too bizarre for words. Even more bizarre is the sort of people Nightingale brings Peter into contact with. A nest of vampires, the god and goddess of the river Thames and their separate families and offspring are just the start of it. His colleague, Leslie, staggered at what Peter has got himself into, tries to help. Then something happens to Nightingale and Peter really is thrown in at the deep end, left alone to solve a puzzle that threatens to destroy the whole city.

What a good start to a new series. Well... new to me... it has actually been around for several years now. There were a couple of things about it that stood out for me. Firstly I liked the way the author brought modern-day London into the story. Anyone who knows the city will recognise it here, streets, areas, tube stations, tourist spots, anything and everything gets a mention. I'm not an expert on the city but I know it a bit and it was great fun picturing places like Covent Garden, St. Pauls, The Embankment and more in my head, because I've been there and know it. It is very much modern-day London too. There are many mentions of recent English culture, recognisable to anyone who lives here or who knows England - TV shows, politics, theatres, famous people, the book is really *really* English in a way that I found I enjoyed a lot.

The second thing I liked was the imaginative twists that are hard to describe without spoilers. The rivers of London are not actually rivers for instance but I'm not saying what they are. The background to the plot, the reason for everything happening, I guessed early on but it didn't spoil my enjoyment at all. I was able to marvel at the author's cleverness in incorporating this extra element into the murder plotline as I read, and it kept me guessing as to what was going to happen next and how he would handle it.

One huge plus for me was the humour: the book doesn't take itself at all seriously. Aaronovitch's writing style is comedic and it shows that he's a writer who has worked on various TV programmes such as Dr. Who. I laughed quite a lot and enjoyed the easy going, self-deprecating feel to the book and to the main characters. I liked Peter, I liked that his appearance is not your run-of-the-mill English policeman look, I liked his wizard mentor, Nightingale, too... hope to read a lot more about him in successive books.

In fact, I can't wait to read more, to be honest. I own the second book, Moon Over Soho and have book three, Whispers Underground, on my library pile. There is also a book four, Broken Homes which comes out in June I believe. I'm really pleased that my first book for Once Upon a Time VII was such a good, fun read, hopefully the rest will live up to this great start.


elaineteresa said...

I'm glad you've got round to reading these, Cath. I'm on Whispers at the moment. A bit slower than the other two to get in to but just as enjoyable. He has a new one out in June!

DesLily said...

good to hear you found "yet another" series of books to enjoy! I know you "needed" another series LOL..but just as long as they are enjoyed that's all that matters!!

I did read the "cat" book but haven't even begun another book since I haven't felt very well.. I hope I get to one soon though!

Lynn said...

I read Rivers of London some time ago now and enjoyed it for all the reasons you mention. It's an interesting story with a good setting, plenty of humour and really quite unique. I'm mystified as to why I've not picked up No.2 yet, particularly given it's sat on my shelf. I must bump it up.
Lynn :D

samantha.1020 said...

This definitely sounds like a book that I want to check out! I'm adding this one to my pool of books for this challenge that I need to grab at the library. Great review!!

Cheryl @ Tales of the Marvelous said...

Ah...the title almost had me to begin with...and then I was intrigued by the plot...and then you tell me lots of places in modern London figure in...and then there's humor too? On the To Be Read list with this one! Although...someone's face being ripped off does give me pause. Not really a fan of blood and gore, and I can't tell if this one features much gore or not--but I'll probably take a chance. :)

Margaret @ BooksPlease said...

I saw this book a while back in the library and wondered whether to read it. I'm still wondering ...

A face being ripped off?? a nest of vampires?? don't like the sound of that.

I don't know London very well at all, so that doesn't really appeal either.

And yet, somehow I am drawn to this book, so if it's in the library sometime when I am I'll bring it home.

Cath said...

elaineteresa: I'm really looking forward to reading them all, so nice to find such an entertaining new series.

Pat: Yep... just what I needed - *another* new shiny series to read. Haha. Oh well..

Have you started anything new? Hope you're feeling a bit better now.

Lynn: Actually I understand as that has happened to me many times and I've not been able to work out why. Or, I read 2 or 3 in a series, like them, but never get any further. 'Tis a mystery. I've started following your blog as it seems we like the same kind of books.

Samantha: I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Cheryl: As far as I remember there were no gory details, just a statement of the fact. I'm not fond of gory either and it certainly didn't upset me. The overall tone of the story is comedy, not blood and gore. Hope that helps.

Margaret: Worth a try if you can get it from the library, then it doesn't cost you anything if it's not for you.

No gory details with the face thing and the vampire section is quite brief and again, no nasty details. I was fine with it. I rather think the humour in it might appeal to you, to be honest.

Gavin said...

Thanks for the review, Cath. This is another series on my TBR list. I really am trying to created a list of series I've started.

Divers and Sundry said...

i found your link at the once upon a time review site. i've never heard of this book, but it sounds interesting. and part of a series, no less. hoorah! i'll definitely be picking this one up.

Val said...

Lovely review ...I've actually been reading and must share some book notes ...I'd love to review but my brain isn't up to it yet so it'll have to be a few notes to start it off!
Have a lovely Easter Cath

Cath said...

Gavin: I have a list of my series and find it really useful. Don't think I could manage with out it. LOL.

Divers and Sundry: Hope you enjoy it!

Val: Hope you get around to some reviews, or even just notes, at some stage.

Happy Easter to you too.

TracyK@Bitter Tea and Mystery said...

I am considering reading this for the challenge, but did not put it on my list because I don't have a copy. Great review, and you have convinced me to buy it sooner rather than later. I am in the US and I want a UK copy with that cover.

Cath said...

Tracy: My copy is a Kindle copy so sadly I don't have that cover either, but I love it too. If you decide to read it I hope you like it as much as I did.

Moo said...

That sounds really good. I was having trouble finding it on Amazon and it appears that its title is Midnight Riot in the U.S. I like the U.K title and cover art much better.

Cath said...

Moo: The UK book cover is really nice, imo. I'm struggling to see where the alternative title of Midnight Riot came from... and I've read the book! LOL

Unknown said...

I thought this book was pretty hilarious too. :) I've never been to London, and I've been told by many that I'd have enjoyed the book a lot more if I had - but I enjoyed it enough to want to get the second book!

For some silly reason, they changed the name of this book to "Midnight Riot" in the US. "Rivers of London" is much better!

Cath said...

Rachel: Hmm, yes I suppose it does make slightly more sense if you've been to London but I honestly don't think it's that crucial. Even though you haven't been there it's still quite possible to pick up the atmosphere of the setting from a book. I'm glad it didn't put you off getting book 2. Yes, someone else mentioned the change of title, I can't understand why they changed it or where they got 'Midnight Riot' from. LOL.

Yvonne @ Fiction Books Reviews said...

Hi Cath,

I have so far resisted the tempatation to try any of Ben's books, although of course, I have come across his name before and read several of the glowing reviews he always seems to get.

I always try to stay away from magic, wizardry and other fantasy books, however after dipping my toe into the vampiric stories with my current book and quite enjoying it, I could possibly be tempted.

My book too, has underground tunnels and caves, so the idea of 'Rivers Of London' being set in the underground tunnels of my homeland City sounds quite intriguing. Especially as I had a quick glance recently at a book detailing just how many tunnels there actually are under London, which I really couldn't believe!

You are going to have to catch up with this series quickly if you are really interested in it, as I see that book 4 'Broken Homes' is due out in the summer.

Concise, informative and readable review, as always,


Cath said...

Hi Yvonne! The trouble is there are just so many books and series, aren't there? Almost impossible to choose which to read and sometimes, even though you know you will like a series, there just isn't enough time to take on a new one. You just have to be a bit choosey. For me, cost is also an issue. If a series is 20 books long I check first that the majority of them can be got from the library because I just can't justify shelling out for 20 books I might not read again.

The book you're reading sounds like it might be interesting so I look forward to your review of it.

Rivers of London is not really an underground tunnels book. But I have a feeling another book in the series might be. I'm not sure, I'll have to check as I also like that type of book very much indeed. Drood by Dan Simmons was that kind of book, I wish there were a lot more of them!

I have the next two books in this series (one I own, the other a library book) so I'm ok with this series. But several others are another story. LOL.

Thanks for dropping by.