Moon Over Soho is the second of Ben Aaronovitch’s PC Peter Grant novels, following on from Rivers of London. PC Grant found himself joining the Met’s supernatural division in the first novel, its only other member being his new magic teacher, wizard Thomas Nightingale. He then had some run ins with ghosts, wizards and the spirits of Londons rivers, all the while trying to learn some magic himself.
In Moon Over Soho, Peter has taken on a little more responsibility while Nightingale recovers from the events of Rivers of London. This time round, he is on the trail of a magical being who is sucking the life from jazz musicians just as they finish performing. He and Nightingale also find themselves trying to track down some black magicians.
As with Rivers of London, there are a couple of different storylines running through Moon Over Soho, both of which are full of action and tension, sending Peter into scary situations which he somehow always managed to bluff his way through. The twists and turns are hard to predict, keeping you hooked on the novel – I didn’t figure out the conclusion of the main story until it became obvious.
But the action-packed story is only part of the draw of Aaronovitch’s novels. His writing style is excellent, absolutely perfectly suited to the setting and character. Peter is a London boy through and through, the city is his manor, and he is an engaging and likeable character. He swears, makes mistakes, and generally fumbles his way through life with flashes of brilliance. I love the language that Aaronovitch uses – the phrase “gone to Bedfordshire” is used, which completely resonates with me and the people I know (it means “gone to bed” if you don’t know”. Peter really is an Everyman, a character who is completely believable and real, someone I can imagine really exists.
The picture of the Metropolitan Police painted in Moon Over Soho (and Rivers of London) is hilarious, while also not implying that they are incompetent. Young PCs are delighted to arrest someone when it’s raining, because it means they get to go back to the station for a couple of hours. It reminds me of Stuart Macbride’s Logan Macrae novels, which are set in Aberdeen. The image of Grampian Police in those novels is hilarious, and so typically Aberdonian.
As with Rivers of London, the only negative I can see with Moon Over Soho is the supernatural side to the story. A lot of people dismiss some novels based on the fact that they are about the supernatural. It is certainly an intrinsic part of the PC Peter Grant series, but even if you are a reader who avoids these novels, particularly in recent years with the number of supernatural novels flooding the market, I would strongly urge you to give Ben Aaronovitch a try. The books are wonderful, humourous and exciting, and Peter Grant may be a wizard in training, but he’s also just a regular bloke. Aaronovitch captures the spirit of his character perfectly, and his novels are real gems.
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