It’s only because I saw this book in the library the other day that I’m reviewing it now. If you’ve already read the bit on Rivers of London, you’ll pretty much know where I’m heading with this one; the same criticisms apply here too.
Isn’t it strange how you get into the habit of reading one particular author? The Sookie Stackhouse books had the same effect as this one on me, though I came much later in the piece to those. Which meant, of course, that I could read several of them in quick succession, blam-blam-blam. Not so with the Peter Grant books, since this is the second of what is clearly turning into a bit of a series, and my public library doesn’t seem to have the third book, Whispers Under Ground in just yet. Sigh – that’s what they made the internet for though, right? So that you could bankrupt yourself buying books off of it?
Anyway – you can see why both author and publisher would be keen for this to be more than a single book kind of dealie. The characters are endearing, there is a lot of interesting subtext to explore and setting the series in London almost has the effect of creating an additional storytelling element in itself. However, these factors don’t make it any less of a rapid-fire read. Which is not a bad thing, not at all. Man (or at least, this particular example of the human race) does not live by highbrow, impenetrable literature alone. Most of the time that’s exactly what I don’t want in a book – I want to relate to the characters, I want to see the human struggle that we all contend with in the characters that the author has created. This book certainly delivers on both fronts.
ISBN: 978 0575097568
NOTE: This book is also known by another title, Midnight Riot. I don’t know why for sure, but I have a feeling it’s something to do with the market outside the UK. But more on that later…
SO many apostrophes in that title! You get what I’m going for there though, right cublings? It’s all a bit Saauf Lundun, innit. Oh alright, I’ll stop embarrassing myself now, and get back on topic. This book, or at least the copy that I read, has a quote from Diana Gabaldon on it’s cover which reads “What would happen if Harry Potter grew up and joined the Fuzz.” Now, I’m no Potterphile, but if I’m not mistaken, not only did Harry Potter want to grow up and join “the fuzz” (or at least the magical version thereof), but that quote is going to put off a lot of people who probably would really enjoy this book. It’s funny, irreverent, and has enough serious subtext (on race, the nature of authority, and other good pondering subjects like that) to keep you engaged with the story long after you finish reading it.
Getting back to the Potter thing, Rowling takes the approach that magic is something you’re born with, and has to be developed if it’s going to be usable for the witch or wizard from an early age, right? Aaronovitch’s main character, Peter Grant, doesn’t discover that he’s capable of magic until he’s coming to the end of his probationary period as a police constable as a part of the London Metropolitan Police. Peter explains to his superior officer in the Police equivalent of the exit interview that he wants to join the CID and become a detective; but when the superior asks him why he doesn’t want to join one of the specialist units, Peter “suddenly had a horrible thought. What if they were thinking of sending me to Trident? That was the Operational Command Unit charged with tackling gun crime within the black community…[and]…always on the lookout for black officers to do hideously dangerous undercover work, and being mixed race meant that I qualified.” (p12) There are two things that interest me about this little two sentence nugget – firstly, that use of jargon. This book is full of it. That’s not something that I mind personally; in fact it bought back childhood memories of watching The Bill as a kid; “Get ‘im daaun to CID!”, etcetra, etcetra. The acronyms are only elongated once (thank goodness – nothing makes me more irritated that authors who feel the need to explain themselves again and again), so if you were someone who got obsessed about these things, it might be a bit annoying, but I just rolled right over them.
The second interesting thing about that sentence is the reference to race. When I was thinking about it afterward, I can’t actually remember ever having read a book with a mixed-race character as it’s lead. Which is weird, don’t you think? Maybe it’s just my bad memory, but it still interests me. There is a part later on in the book where a very senior police officer (who, to be fair, is under the influence of a rather malicious revanant) tells Peter that ‘back in his day’, Peter would be unwelcome to say the least in the Met; “A locker full of excrement would have been a warm-up. Odds are, a few of your relief would have taken you to one side and explained, in a rough but friendly manner, just how unwanted you were.” (p322) It’s always lurking as a subtext in the back of the story, and that is one of the things that made me enjoy it so much. I really believe that some of the most effective ways of getting people to think about these issues is to make us laugh about them first. Laugh, then think really, really hard. Read the rest of this entry