Sunday, March 30, 2014

Moon Over Soho: Ben Aaronovitch

Although my favorite genre is mystery novels, I have been dabbling in reading science fiction and fantasy novels in the last few years. Straight fantasy novels don't usually excite me, although I keep trying (and welcome suggestions). But the blend of mystery and fantasy often works for me. The Rivers of London series is the perfect example of that sub-genre. From my point of view, the series is very successful because it gives just as much attention to the investigation (in this case, by a policeman) as it does to the fantasy elements.

Moon Over Soho is the 2nd book in a series by Ben Aaronovitch. Peter Grant is the hero, and in the first book he is a probationary constable in the Metropolitan Police Service in London. He wants to be assigned to the CID, but it looks like he is headed for the dreaded Case Progression Unit, where he will be stuck doing paperwork. Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale saves him from this fate, drafting him into a specialist unit that deals with ghosts, spirits, vampires.

To give a sample of the tone of the story, here is a quote from the beginning of  the second chapter:
The general public have a warped view of the speed at which an investigation proceeds. They like to imagine tense conversations going on behind the Venetian blinds, and unshaven but ruggedly handsome, detectives working themselves with single-minded devotion into the bottle and marital breakdown. The truth is that at the end of the day, unless you’ve generated some sort of urgent lead, you go home and get on with the important things in life — like drinking and sleeping and, if you’re lucky, a relationship with the gender and sexual orientation of your choice. And I would have been doing at least one of those things the next morning if I hadn’t also been the last bleeding apprentice wizard in England. Which meant I spent my spare time learning magic, studying dead languages, and reading books like Essays on the Metaphysical by John “never saw a polysyllabic word he didn’t like” Cartwright.
And learning magic, of course — which is what makes the whole thing worthwhile.
This book is described as an urban fantasy and it does fit within that genre. The thing I don't like about that label is that there is an expectation that urban fantasies mostly have female protagonists and are strong on romance (at least from what I have read). This book has a young black male protagonist; romance is involved but not the strongest element. There is, however, in this book, a lot of explicit sex. For a while that bothered me but it is integral to the plot so... 

Actually Peter is of mixed race, but he is a person of color and that often affects how he is treated in his work and his investigations. This is not dwelt on but does add another dimension. Jazz is a theme throughout the book. Peter's father, Richard "Lord" Grant, is a jazz musician, and jazz musicians are being targeted in the latest case. Another very strong element of the books is the author's love of and extensive knowledge of London. In a sense, this can be distracting to someone who doesn't know much about the area, but I still enjoyed this aspect.

If I have not already made it clear, I did like this book a lot. I have the third book in the series and will be reading that soon. This book did not make as big an impact on me as the first one. That may have been that I was really mesmerized by the writing, the humor, the fun in reading the first book, but knew what to expect when I got to this one. It might have been the emphasis on sex, which I still think could have been toned down a bit. Regardless, a wonderful read and a series I want to continue.

This is definitely a series you would want to read in order. I am sure I would have been entirely lost if I had started with this book.


This is my first submission for Once Upon a Time VIII.

 ----------------------------------
Publisher: Gollancz [2011]
Length: 373 pages
Format: trade paperback
Series: Rivers of London, book 2

16 comments:

  1. Yes, that second book did have a bit of explicit sex. It surprised me too. My favourite is book 3, Whispers Underground, and if memory serves the sex is missing from that. It's not a bad series and like you I enjoy the London element very much.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Cath, I usually don't like humorous mysteries, but this one really entertains me. Maybe because it is told in first person. Looking forward to book 3.

      Delete
  2. Tracy, I have heard such good things about Ben Aaronovitch, from you and others, that I will have to try him soon.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Moira, I think you would like this series. I swear I noticed lots of clothing descriptions, now I cannot find them. Later in the book as the action gets hotter, I stopped noticing.

      Delete
  3. Tracy - Thanks as always for a solid and thoughtful review. I have to admit that fantasy isn't my first choice as genre. But I do give credit to authors who can create whole new kinds of reality. That takes creativity. Thanks for calling Aaronovitch to my attention.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Margot, It is true that fantasy author do a great job of creating a different world. In this case it was more straightforward. Mainly just the normal world with some magic thrown in that most people were not even aware of.

      Delete
  4. Irrespective of your positive reports on both of these so far, I'll pass. More you than me - glad you liked it though.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Col, I did like it. I would not exactly call it a feel good book... but definitely fun.

      Delete
  5. I've had this on my shelf for ages. I should really try to read it for this event - especially since I have so many unfinished series (need to concentrate on wrapping some up)!
    Lynn :D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lynn, definitely read it as soon as you can fit it in. I love this series.

      Delete
  6. I really enjoyed the first book in the series and must get on with the second (not least because I have spotted the author more than once in Covent Garden) - I don't remember there being much sex in the first one at all so that's unexpected - thanks TrackK.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sergio, I love that the author is so out-spoken about loving London.

      I agree, not so much sex in the first one. There is a reason that it is in the book, so not as irritating in the end.

      Delete
  7. A lot of readers enjoy his books. I have enough on my plate to add more so I'll have to pass. I read urban fantasy and usually they do have a strong protagonist lead that's female but I would think they would have less romance but I might have it wrong. I say that because I enjoyed Patricia Briggs duology: Dragon Bones and Dragon Blood and the romance was secondary and subtle. Thanks for review. He has quite a few books in the series already.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Keishon, I will keep Patricia Briggs in mind. Mostly I think I don't like fantasy that much unless it has a mystery element, but I do keep trying some by different authors.

      Delete
  8. Tracy, I hope to follow your recommendation and read the first Ben Aaronovitch book at least. I think my TBR pile goes up every time I visit yours and Col's blogs.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Prashant, you like a variety of genres. And I have added to my lists when reading your blog also.

      Delete