Ben Aaronovitch is a man who can spin a tale. He has written TV scripts and audio dramas and includes both episodes and novelizations of the famous Dr. Who franchise among his many credits. And I’m sure all of those things are very interesting. But they’re not what I want to talk to you about this week.
No, today we’re gonna talk about the Rivers of London series. Police Constable Peter Grant is our plucky protagonist, an up and coming beat cop who has little to look forward to in his career beyond a life behind a desk, making very important contributions in the field of clerical work. That is, until he is placed on guard at a homicide scene and winds up interviewing one of the most important witnesses in the case.
It just so happens that that witness is a ghost.
This makes PC Grant’s life exponentially more difficult. Particularly when the information he gets from the ghost is verified by other developments in the case. Naturally, Grant goes out in attempt to ask the ghost some more questions. What he finds instead is Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale. Rather than signing up Grant for a long stay in a padded room, DCI Nightingale offers Grant a job – as an apprentice to the last officially sanctioned wizard in England.
Life as an apprentice wizard is more than just study and practice for Grant, however. In addition to his exhaustive study of Latin, the language Isaac Newton codified magic into, Grant has to log several hours of practice each day (but not too much, else he cause a fatal brain aneurysm), help Nightingale keep the Queen’s Peace among the many supernatural denizens of London and figure out exactly what magic is and where it comes from.
And that’s in addition to trying to figure out what happened to the murdered man and the helpful ghost he saw. Oh, and the job comes with supernatural politics, too. In particular, one of the local rivers incarnate wants to take a hand in regulating and enforcing the Queen’s Peace among the paranormal folks of London. Juggling his obligations to the Crown while navigating the tricky byways of the Thames River tributaries is a running theme of Grant’s life, hence the name of the series.
Peter is a believable character living in a lovingly detailed rendition of modern London, and his stories are told with wit and charm, along with a healthy dose of heart that makes them both engaging and enjoyable. As a note, part of what makes Peter believable is that he behaves and talks like a cop, including coarse language. If that bothers you, the Rivers of London might not be for you.
If that sounds intriguing, Rivers of London (or Midnight Riot if you live in the States) is the first book in the series, and is well worth your time to check it out.