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Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch

I decided to read Rivers of London after seeing a review calling it “The British Dresden Files”. I found that to not really be a very apt description but loved the book nonetheless.

The story begins with a murder near St. Paul’s Church, Covent Garden, and we find the hero of the story, PC Peter Grant, on guard duty keeping the crime scene clear, while his friend and fellow probationary office, Leslie May, heads off to get a coffee from a near by cafe. When he sees someone skulking about. When he approaches this person he finds to his surprise that rather than a drunk Londoner it is in fact a ghost from then 18th century. This ghost professes to have seen the murder and Peter’s policing instincts take over and he asks for his eye witness statement, which just sounds bizarre. The killer took a bat and knocked the victims head clean off. This interview is cut short when they’re interrupted by Leslie with the coffee.

Later, after finishing their probation, Leslie is assigned to the murder team and Peter is assigned to the case forwarding unit, which basically means paperwork for Peter. So trying to plumb for a better assignment he decides to go back to the church and see if he can talk to the ghost again and find some information that may break the case and increase his chances of being put to better use. But when no ghost is forthcoming he is left sitting there all night, until a strangely dressed man asks him what he’s doing, and he tells the truth, “looking for ghosts”. It turns out this strangely dressed man is actually Inspector Nightingale, a senior officer in the Met and a wizard, who actually runs a department charged with keeping the Queen’s peace amongst the supernatural and magical in Great Britain, and he recruits Peter to be his apprentice. The first Wizard’s apprentice in a very long time.

From there Peter is sucked in to a world of magic, ghosts and gods and goddesses and drags his friend Leslie along for the ride. The plot revolves around trying to solve the murder, which turns in to a rash of murders, while avoiding a turf war between the god (Father) and goddess (Mama) of the Thames and their sons and daughter, each named after tributaries and forgotten rivers of London, hence the title.

With vivid characters, a plot that is paced very well and a mixture of humour, darkness and detailed observations of police procedure and of London itself the book is compelling and charming. In fact half way through I put down preorders on the next 2 in the series with no hesitation. So while calling it The British Dresden Files isn’t really a good description it is a good comparison if it attracts fans of the series and the genre because if I’m anything to go by they will love it.

Available From: W H SmithWaterstonesAmazon

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Reviewed by Kevin on 27 January 2011

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