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Rivers of London
Ben Aaronovitch
Gollancz, 400 pages

Rivers of London
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

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Nathan Brazil

'She was a squat, angry-faced middle-aged woman with lank brown hair who looked like she fought Rottweilers for a hobby. This was the legendary Detective Sergeant Miriam Stephanopoulos, Seawoll's right-hand woman and terrifying lesbian.'
The tag line for Rivers of London reads 'what if Harry Potter grew up and joined the fuzz.' An interesting enough concept, but one that does not do the ingenuity and entertainment value of this novel justice. The central character is Peter Grant, a young, mixed race British PC, who encounters something supernatural during the course of his duties; specifically, a talking ghost. Taking this in his stride he is soon immersed in a world where magic is real, and supernatural critters a fact of life. So far, not much different to a dozen other titles, you may think. However, as with the majority of fiction, the difference is not in a well trod theme, but all about the skill and imagination displayed in its execution. In that department, former Doctor Who screenwriter Ben Aaronovitch delivers the goods, producing a detailed, hop-skipping, often quirky novel, that has a distinctly British feel.

The main thrust of the story concerns a revenant of a dead actor, who taking the role of Mr. Punch, forces random individuals to act out what are ultimately murderous scenes in a warped version of a classic play occurring mostly in his head. Those individuals who fall under his control -- unfortunately becoming murderers by proxy -- eventually suffer the severe misfortune of having their faces fall off. Secondary to this thread, and more relevant to the title, is an ongoing dispute between two powerful supernatural entities, who are the author's unique take on river gods. One male, one female, both concerned with territorial disputes along the mighty River Thames. But the real gem is the style of writing linking all of the above into an immersive world. Ben Aaronovitch writes with a subtle, laid-back yet nicely acerbic wit, lobbing in observations on life in modern London which make it all seem easily and sometimes sleazily real. It is no great step to accept that magic exists as an energy accessible to few -- and via living incarnations -- that are known to the authorities. Issues which are managed by the police like any other, albeit on the quiet. Peter Grant soon finds himself seconded to 'The Folly' a department that has no official existence, and contains only one superior office. There, he begins to learn the basics of magic, and the world of the hidden. The supporting cast are also nicely drawn, especially Grant's mentor, Nightingale, and Beverley Brook, the sexy incarnation of a Thames tributary.

Occasionally the story meandered a little, though never enough to detract from the overall quality of what was on offer. There was a distinctive, original and deeply refreshing feel about this title. I have no hesitation in recommending it to fans of magic-tinged murder mystery, and especially those who want the pleasure of being able to say that they were in at the start of something a bit special.

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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