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Moon Over Soho
Ben Aaronovitch
Gollancz, 373 pages

Moon Over Soho
Ben Aaronovitch
Ben Aaronovitch was born in 1964. Discovering in his early twenties that he had precisely one talent, he took up screenwriting at which he was an overnight success. He wrote for Doctor Who, Casualty and Jupiter Moon. He then wrote for Virgin's New Adventures until they pulped all his books. While working for Waterstones as a bookseller, he decided to write his own books leading to Rivers of London (or Midnight Riot as it is known in the Americas). Ben Aaronovitch currently resides in London.

Ben Aaronovitch Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Rivers of London
SF Site Review: Rivers of London

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Nathan Brazil

'The world was different before the war,' he said. 'We didn't have this instantaneous access to information that your generation has. The world was a bigger, more mysterious place -- we still dreamed of secret caves in the Mountains of the Moon, and tiger hunting in the Punjab.'

When all the map was pink, I thought. When every boy expected his own adventure and girls had not yet been invented.'

Moon Over Soho is the second novel to feature British Detective Constable Peter Grant, the UK's only trainee wizard. Those who picked up on the first novel, Rivers of London, will know that Grant's department, the Folly, has a staff of two policemen, and a female creature of indeterminate supernature. This time around, DC Grant and colleagues are on the trail of, wait for it, Jazz Vampires!

Moon Over Soho begins with the death of Cyrus Wilkinson, a part-time jazz saxophonist and full-time accountant, who apparently has a heart-attack just after a gig. From very early on it is clear that Ben Aaronovitch is completely immersed in his world, and has a firm image of his characters. The main plot, again presented in the first person, has many angles that artfully mesh with complimentary asides. Aaronovitch is sparing in his use of DCI Thomas Nightingale, Grant's immediate superior and the last fully trained wizard in the Met. We're spoon fed bits of Nightingale's fascinating back story, and intentionally left wanting more. Similarly, Grant's friend and sometime colleague, DC Lesley May, returns as a sympathetic character, still badly damaged by magic, but not beaten. Discovering that magic can't necessarily fix what magic broke is a heartbreaking touch of realism. Had it been a case of a quick solution in the style of Harry Potter or Sooty, the careful credibility the author is building would have suffered. Magic, in Peter Grant's world can be spectacular, but its often understated and always mysterious. In Lesley's tragic case, Grant sums it up with a simple explanation that a burn isn't fixed with more fire. Yet, very subtly, Aaronovitch later teases the slim possibility of salvation when he shows us how a severely wounded magical character finds a way to regenerate physical damage. The plot rambles along nicely, loaded with quirks and word play that are as distinctly English as The Kinks. The very idea of Jazz Vampires may seem absurd, but their feeding off beauty turns out to be a refreshing take on what a vampire is, and what that kind of need dictates. We also get several hints as to something darker, deeper, and much larger than the local problems Grant and Nightingale have been dealing with thus far. Add to this a magical bad guy, who in the best traditions of The Sweeney, evades the long arm of the law, and the cliffhanger ending sets us up nicely for book three, Whispers Under Ground.

At turns horrific and hilarious, the characterisation is solid as a truncheon, the humour dry, and the premise a touch of real world magic that every reader hopes to find. There are a few minor negatives. One of two of the explanations stretched credibility, and at times the plot would have benefitted from more Nightingale, despite the risk of him overshadowing DC Grant. Avoiding this potential issue by absenting Nightingale felt a little like the author cutting off his nose to spite his face. Next time around I'm hoping for a lot more back story detailing what has gone on in London's magical past. These quibbles aside, Moon Over Soho is a fine sequel, and one that I can recommend.

Copyright © 2012 Nathan Brazil

Nathan Brazil
If Nathan Brazil were dyslexic, he'd be the dog of the Well world. In reality, he's an English bloke who lives on an island, reading, writing and throwing chips to the seagulls. Drop by his web site at

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