Ben Aaronovitch took the world - or at the very least me - by surprise with his first original novel, Rivers of London, when it was released in January, establishing itself on many a bestseller list and receiving positive reviews across the board. Unexpectedly and truly fun, Rivers of London promised many great things for the further adventures of Peter Grant. Moon Over Soho constitutes the second of these adventures, one just as entertaining and just exciting as the first, with added depth to boot. The Peter Grant books are quickly establishing themselves as a reference in fun-driven Urban Fantasy and Moon Over Soho is proof of why that is.
My name is Peter Grant, and I’m a Detective Constable in that might army for justice known as the Metropolitan Police (a.k.a. The Filth). I’m also a trainee wizard, the first such apprentice in fifty years. Officially I belong to ESC9, Economic and Specialist Crime Unit 9, otherwise known as ‘The Folly’, also known as the unit that nice, well-brought-up coppers don’t talk about in polite company.
When I was a kid, I was in charge of changing my dad’s records while he lounged around drinking tea - that’s how I know my Argo from my Tempo. And that’s why, when Dr. Walid called me down to the morgue to listen to a corpse, I recognized the tune as ‘Body and Soul’ - something violently supernatural had happened to the victim, strong enough to leave its imprint on his corpse as if it were a wax cylinder recording. The former owner of the body, Cyrus Wilkinson, was a part-time jazz saxophonist and full-time accountant who had dropped dead of a heart attack just after finishing a gig.
He wasn’t the first, but no one was going to let me exhume corpses to see if they were playing my tune, so it was back to old-fashioned police legwork, starting in Soho, the heart of the scene, with the lovely Simone - Cyrus’ex-lover, professional jazz kitten and as inviting as a Rubens portrait - as my guide. And it didn’t take me long to realize there were monsters stalking Soho, creatures feeding off that special gift that separates the great musician from someone who can raise a decent tune What they take is beauty. What they leave behind is sickness, failure and broken lives.
And as I hunted them, my investigation got tangled ip in another story: a brilliant trumpet player, Richard ‘Lord’ Grant - my father - who managed to destroy his own career. Twice.
That’s the thing about policing: most of the time you’re doing it to maintain public order. Occasionally you’re doing it for justice. And maybe, once in a career, you’re going it for revenge.
Moon Over Soho is a much more wholesome novel than its predecessor. Whereas Rivers of London seemed to concentrate on the entertainment value, on this second outing with Peter Grant we get a look at the deeper, more emotional side of things, but without sacrificing any of the fun. Aaronovitch plays boldly too, daring to interweave not one but two investigation at once, giving Peter plenty of work and the reader worthy amounts of juicy plot to devour.
Aaronovitch expands the worldbuilding in Moon Over Soho, giving us a greater sense of the use and history of magic - as it exists in the books - lending a decidedly nostalgic tone to the novel. One cannot help but draw parallels between the Peter Grant books and that other famous Urban Fantasy, Harry Potter - hell, Peter actually directly references it - when an extinct school of magic is introduced. The reference appropriate, even expected, as up to now Aaronovitch has not shied away once from presenting modern culture exactly as it is, from calling grocery stores by real-world brand names to, yes, mentioning one of the most significant works of popular literature of our time when it feels natural someone would.
All of this unfolds, as was the case in Rivers of London, at a breakneck pace. Aaronovitch’s mantra while writing these novels appears to be ‘speed and fun’ which works out well indeed. The unrelenting cadence throws the reader from one plot event to the next without pause, which though exhausting at times, is mostly just fun. Aaronovitch has left his humor behind in the last book either, bringing to Moon Over Soho a welcome dose of wit and wry humor.
Though one can find slight faults in the content of the plot, Moon Over Soho remains an excellent, and in my opinion better, continuation to Peter Grant’s story. Aaronovitch in no way disappoints, so readers of the first book should have no fear of that digging in to the second one. The authenticity and accuracy of the London described by Aaronovitch still amazes me, in fact his books are almost worth reading just for that and the cultural references. Whispers Under Ground is the next book in the series and is due in November in both the US and the UK.
My Rating: 5 out of 5
Reading Age: 16 and up
Ben Aaronovitch's Website: http://www.the-folly.com/
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