This book was recommended to me by reader David, so thank you so much! I may have never discovered this series without your suggestion!
Midnight Riot, published as Rivers of London in the UK, is the first in an ongoing Urban Fantasy series that follows PC Peter Grant as he investigates paranormal crimes in London.
Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars
While guarding a murder scene, Peter Grant discovers a witness to the crime, but there’s a problem. The man is a ghost. Not the figural “difficult to pin down” sort of ghost, but the literal “lingering manifestation of the dead” sort. And to make matters even worse, Peter’s learned that he’s being relegated to a desk job.
Needless to say, he’s had a rough night.
That is, until he crosses paths with one Inspector Constable Nightingale and admits to the man that he’s trying to talk to a ghost. That catches the Constable’s attention, and suddenly Peter is out of the pan and into the fire; Nightingale is a bonafide magician, and has selected Peter as his apprentice.
He’s pretty sure Nightingale is bonkers, but anything’s better than desk duty, right?
But, as the months go by, there are more disturbing murders, in which people are being psychically controlled, and then their faces are broken to the point of death, and Peter actually learns to do magic! Turns out, Nightingale is the last member of what was once the Metropolitan Police’s magical investigations unit (that’s not the actual name of it, but you get the idea). They have their own headquarters, a big old house known as The Folly, where Nightingale begins the long and arduous task of teaching Peter magic. And latin. And history. There’s a lot more to being a magician than just saying funny words, you know.
This was an incredibly quick read, mainly because I opened it on a Sunday, a day off, and simply could not put it down. I credit that to the incredibly witty narrative and the tight and concise action sequences. Ultimately, the book is fun. Just pure, hilarious, and even gritty fun.
Peter’s first person narrative is distinct from Dresden’s because he has lived his life so far as an exceedingly normal man. He’s smart, with an interest and passion for science, but he’s also an underachiever. He was just a normal Constable until he met a ghost. Which is a pretty typical approach to fantasy, make the point of view that of the newcomer, so that the reader learns along with them.
But, it works really well in this book thanks to Peter’s dry sarcasm and his unique perspective as a mixed-race PC. His mother is from Sierra Leone and his father is a local jazz legend, brought low by a heroin addiction. Aaronovitch was sneaky in this regard, painting Peter as quite normal, the canvas for all the weird and paranormal to happen against, but as you get to know him, he grows into someone wholly interesting in his own right.
This series has a lot to recommend it. Peter’s narrative, well composed action sequences, exploration of local folklore and a wonderfully developed sense of place. The plot is really well done, original, with magic used in ways I haven’t really seen before. While there are similarities to Dresden (sarcastic magic wielders take on paranormal baddies), this series takes a different path to get there.
I’m pleased to say that the second book holds up to its predecessor, as you’ll see in my forthcoming review. There are six books currently out in this series, as well as a novella, a free audible short story, and a slew of graphic novels. AKA, it’s perfect for me. I’ve got all the novels from the library, and have requested the novella and the graphic novels through Interlibrary Loan, because I cannot get enough of this series.
If you find yourself with a free weekend, give Midnight Riot (or Rivers of London if you’re outside the US) a shot. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
I’ll be back this weekend to talk about Brief Cases, and will have a couple of book reviews ready for next week as well. As usual, thank you for reading this far!
Talk at you soon,