Rivers of London is the first novel in Ben Aaronovitch’s PC Grant series. Set rather unsurprisingly in London, we are introduced to Police Constable Peter Grant who at the start of the novel is assigned to Charing Cross police station, and is waiting to find out what section of the Met he will be posted to. Then he meets a ghost…and finds himself the apprentice of Detective Constable Thomas Nightingale, a wizard and sole member of the Met’s supernatural division.
Within the first few pages of Rivers of London, I was sure that this was going to be an enjoyable novel. The story was already shaping up to be interesting and exciting, but even before it really gets going the style and characters are very appealing.
As Rivers of London is written in the first person, we get to know Peter Grant very well. He is an average guy, a typical Londoner and a narrator it is easy to connect with. Aaronovitch’s writing style is excellent, as it portrays the character of Grant so well. It is so easy to immerse yourself in Grant’s life, and to understand him. He could be anyone I know; he talks about “doing a ton down the Great West Road”, and his first thought on successfully working a spell is “F*** me, I just did magic” – which would likely be my first thought in the same situation.
Grant is a thoroughly likeable character, and so it is easy to become involved in his story. And it is some story: murders and magic all mixed together, with some territory problems with the river spirits thrown in for good measure. While I do enjoy a good supernatural story, Rivers of London feels like it is thoroughly grounded in reality thanks to the everyman nature of Grant. The action is well-paced, with plenty of excitement and humour mixed together to keep you gripped.
The only possible negative that I can think of in regards to Rivers of London is that some readers may be put off by the supernatural side of the story; that is, after all, not everyone’s cup of tea. While it is a shame that some people may miss out of such a great book because of this, the magic and supernatural elements of the story are intrinsic to it and not a sideline.
Put simply, Rivers of London is a good book. It is a very good book. I’ve enjoyed plenty of novels recently but this one really does stand out as a really enjoyable and amusing read; I can’t wait to get stuck into the second of PC Grant’s adventures, Moon Over Soho.
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