Thursday, May 08, 2014

Honourable Mentions: Rivers of London

The Blurb: My name is Peter Grant and until January I was just probationary constable in that mighty army for justice known to all right-thinking people as the Metropolitan Police Service (as the Filth to everybody else). My only concerns in life were how to avoid a transfer to the Case Progression Unit - we do paperwork so real coppers don't have to - and finding a way to climb into the panties of the outrageously perky WPC Leslie May. Then one night, in pursuance of a murder inquiry, I tried to take a witness statement from someone who was dead but disturbingly voluable, and that brought me to the attention of Inspector Nightingale, the last wizard in England.

Now I'm a Detective Constable and a trainee wizard, the first apprentice in fifty years, and my world has become somewhat more complicated: nests of vampires in Purley, negotiating a truce between the warring god and goddess of the Thames, and digging up graves in Covent Garden . . . and there's something festering at the heart of the city I love, a malicious vengeful spirit that takes ordinary Londoners and twists them into grotesque mannequins to act out its drama of violence and despair.

The spirit of riot and rebellion has awakened in the city, and it's falling to me to bring order out of chaos - or die trying.

The Mention: It is almost shameful that this book by Ben Aaronovitch (called Midnight Riot in America) sat languishing in my “To Read” pile for over two years. Not for any other reason than I didn’t get around to reading it. As you can tell from the blurb, vampires do appear in the book but they only have a bit role.

The book itself follows Peter Grant, policeman and – having spotted a ghost at a murder site – the newest recruit into the Metropolitan Police’s occult section. This section is made up of Grant (as the apprentice) and Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale, Britain’s last officially sanctioned wizard. The book can’t help but garner comparisons with a certain boy wizard’s series as it has a quintessentially English soul that sets it apart from more standard urban fantasy. It also reminded my tonally of Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere.

As for the vampires, they are an enigma not studied but we discover that, “According to Nightingale, vampires were ordinary people who became ‘infected’, no one was sure how or why, and started feeding off the magic potential, including the vestigial, of their surroundings.” This includes sucking the energy out of electronic devices and reducing the silicon inside to sand. They are dealt with via phosphorus grenades and a cover story by the local fire chief.

There is also a character, Molly, who is an enigma but does have some more traditionally vampiric traits – or perhaps even the traits of a lamia but, from what I can gather, Aaronovitch has so far kept her genus secret through the ensuing series.

No comments: