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Rivers of London / Midnight Riot
Ben Aaronovitch
Gollancz / Del Rey, 400 / 310 pages

Rivers of London
Midnight Riot
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

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Katherine Petersen

Peter Grant, a probationary constable with the London Metropolitan Police, has issues with focus and faces a move to the Case Progression Unit, a group that does paperwork for the real cops when a conversation with a ghost changes his destiny. Returning to the scene to recontact the ghost, a detective inspector asks him what he was doing and he answers with the truth and becomes the first trainee wizard in fifty years under Inspector Thomas Nightingale. And Grant has his hands full with magic and mayhem in London, trying to end a dispute between the god and goddess of the Thames, finding vampires in Purley and digging up graves in Covent Garden to find the evil creating chaos in his city.

Rivers of London is the first book in Ben Aaronovitch's series of the same name although the US edition is titled Midnight Riot. This book is quintessentially British, and that's only part of what makes it marvelous, but I have a penchant for British fiction that others may not share. I also read the British version, so I don't know if any of the Britishness was edited out of the American version. It's easy to like Peter Grant, and Aaronovitch spices up his character and the novel with humor, but not too much as to make Grant an idiot. He's smart, funny, has a few tricks up his sleeve and has his faults as well such as the aforementioned problem with paying attention and then there's the attraction to fellow probationary officer Leslie May.

Rivers of London has a fairly complex plot, but what makes it even more distinct are the personalities given to London waterways. This twist adds dimension to a story that has real people turning on each other for no reason -- well no reason that I can share at this point anyway. London almost has enough personality to be another character in this tale. Nightingale and Grant must unravel the magical and mundane mysteries and hopefully stay alive in the process.

I also liked Aaronovitch's handling of magic. It's understood, if not accepted, by the police and practitioners but hidden from the world at large. He also tries to comprehend the physics of magic, and the way Grant knows how to follow the magical trail is well done. It's been tagged as Harry Potter growing up and joining the fuzz, but I think that underrates Aaronovitch's work. He keeps the story going at a good clip, maintaining at least this reader's interest. Fans of Jim Butcher, Rob Thurman and John Levitt will likely enjoy this magical London adventure. My one complaint is it seems that his ability to ease humor into the story fades some as the story progresses. But this is a minor quibble, and I'm definitely going to read Moon over Soho, the second book in the series to be followed by London Underground.

Copyright © 2011 Katherine Petersen

Katherine Petersen started reading as a young child and hasn't stopped. She still thinks she can read all the books she wants, but might, at some point, realize the impossibility of this mission. While she enjoys other genres, she thrives on fantasy, science fiction and mysteries.

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