Back in 2011 my brother recommended a new novel to me, Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch. From the first few pages I was hooked and the book along with the others in the series: Moon Over Soho, Whispers Underground, Broken Homes and Foxglove Summer are now firmly on my recommend to everyone list and are probably absent from my bookshelves the most as I lend them to friends.
The books centre on the adventures of Peter Grant, an officer in the Met Police; who following an unexpected encounter with a ghost, is recruited into a small branch of the Met (The Folly) that deals with magic and the supernatural. What is not to love about that premise? My other half is in the Met and he informs little old excited me there isn’t such a branch, but would he know if there was…
Navigating the supernatural world of London is not easy. Under the guidance of Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale, Grant becomes the first English apprentice wizard in over 70 years and sets about trying to solve his case.
Our leading star is supported by an awesome cast, I won’t name them all but you can look forward to meeting the aforementioned DCI Nightingale, head of The Folly and last officially sanctioned English Wizard; Mama Thames, Goddess of the River Thames; Dr Abdul Haqq Walid, world renowned gastroenterologist and cryptopathologist; Beverley Brook, “daughter” of Mama Thames and goddess of a small river in South London and PC Lesley May, Grant’s ‘partner in crime’ so to speak in the MET police. All of the characters featured in Rivers of London and Aaronovitch’s subsequent books are so cleverly created. They come with a depth and history that intrigues and you can’t help but believe in them and for some of the more magical ones wished they existed in real life.
The non-magical world’s acceptance of “the less than normal side of policing” is for some people less than believable but we must remember in the world of The Folly there was a time when magic was recognised as a skill and used within law enforcement and beyond. This is not the magic of David Blaine, Derren Brown, Dynamo or even Paul Daniels, magic in Rivers of London is a science taught in Latin and studied at the highest level.
I have a particular love for books set in places that I know. On moving to Kent I immediately looked up books based in my new area using them as a way to understand the lay of the land, the links between towns and villages. For anyone who loves London then you will love Aaronovitch’s books. You are taken into a world you know so well, to streets you probably frequent on a regular if not daily basis, to pubs and restaurants you drink and eat in. In using real places, like many authors before him, Aaronovitch connects his reader to the story. We might struggle to picture magic but we can all picture Covent Garden and the Royal Opera House. Creating a world within a world is magically in itself and like Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere Rivers of London will leave you with a sense of a hidden world within London.
Whether it’s the geography, the magic or the intriguing and rounded characters Ben Aaronovitch’s books are compelling, once you start turning the pages it is impossible to put the books down. I only wish he could write them faster.