Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch. Book review

Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch. Gollancz ‘12.99

Reviewed by Mel McLeod

Rookie detective Peter Grant is somewhat disconcerted to be approached by a ghostly informant ‘ from there it is a short step to becoming the first trainee wizard in the Metropolitan Police for half a century. Soon he is chasing vampires and dealing with grotesque and unpredictable murders, not to mention the exotic and capricious Mother and Father Thames, the warring Gods of the river. Gradually, Peter realises that the mayhem is being caused by a revenant, a phantom that is sequestering people’s bodies and deforming them to increasingly resemble Mister Punch, a figure feeding on the frustration and anger of Londoners. When his erstwhile colleague Lesley takes to the stage at Covent Garden and drives the audience into a murderous frenzy, Peter twigs that the answer must lie in the past.

This is brilliant: very funny in parts, and totally original. Aaronovitch says a great deal in a few apposite words; he creates an endearing hero, weirdness which becomes increasingly disconcerting, and an enduring vision of an alternative London. His knowledge of the city is unparalleled but lightly worn; his writing is precise, unfussy and unpretentious, and his imagination is unbridled. He mixes folklore, legend, history, geography, tradition and old wives’ tales: the tale is gory but not grim, and he keeps his readers not on tenterhooks but on burning coals throughout. By the end we see London in an indelibly different light ‘ who will ever be able to visit Covent Garden again without looking over their shoulder? This is fantasy with myriad twists, and humour with punch!

Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch. Gollancz ‘12.99

Reviewed by Mel McLeod

Rookie detective Peter Grant is somewhat disconcerted to be approached by a ghostly informant ‘ from there it is a short step to becoming the first trainee wizard in the Metropolitan Police for half a century. Soon he is chasing vampires and dealing with grotesque and unpredictable murders, not to mention the exotic and capricious Mother and Father Thames, the warring Gods of the river. Gradually, Peter realises that the mayhem is being caused by a revenant, a phantom that is sequestering people’s bodies and deforming them to increasingly resemble Mister Punch, a figure feeding on the frustration and anger of Londoners. When his erstwhile colleague Lesley takes to the stage at Covent Garden and drives the audience into a murderous frenzy, Peter twigs that the answer must lie in the past.

This is brilliant: very funny in parts, and totally original. Aaronovitch says a great deal in a few apposite words; he creates an endearing hero, weirdness which becomes increasingly disconcerting, and an enduring vision of an alternative London. His knowledge of the city is unparalleled but lightly worn; his writing is precise, unfussy and unpretentious, and his imagination is unbridled. He mixes folklore, legend, history, geography, tradition and old wives’ tales: the tale is gory but not grim, and he keeps his readers not on tenterhooks but on burning coals throughout. By the end we see London in an indelibly different light ‘ who will ever be able to visit Covent Garden again without looking over their shoulder? This is fantasy with myriad twists, and humour with punch!