Saturday, 4 June 2011

Book #42 Rivers Of London by Ben Aaronovitch

Rivers Of London

Ok, so, I've been on holiday for a week, not got much reading done, was pretty much a pound the streets and go-see holiday rather than a sit on your bum by the pool with a book holiday. I did try but the only book I managed to complete was Aaronovitch's Rivers Of London.

It seems that whenever I make a certain claim, a book will show up to contradict me. In this case, I was bemoaning the fact in my review of The Interpretation of Murder that the crime genre has not seen anything original in a good while despite attempts to give it a new twist. This book likewise attempts the new twist on the genre and yet somehow inexplicably pulls it off.

In Rivers Of London, Aaronovitch takes young London copper Peter Grant, whom, it is hinted at is somewhat inept, and places him at a the scene of a murder guarding it overnight alongside Lesley, a colleague he wishes to be more than just friends with, when he is approached by one Nicholas Wallpenny who claims to have witnessed the crime. During Peter's attempt to take a statement Wallpenny dematerialises revealing himself to be a ghost.

Thus begins a tale of ordinary London policing interlocked with a tale of vampires and wizard police officers, sequestration and ghosts, and a dispute between two powerful water spirits. This book shouldn't work, it really shouldn't, the crime genre, the magic genre, and the vampire genre are such well worn avenues of late that they have become truly pedestrian. With all the elements of recent popular fiction thrown in together this book should have been bad, a bit needy, trying to cover all bases and be liked. In some ways it's a bit annoying that its not, because it makes you wonder how he managed to pull it off.

The main strength of the book is that it's entertaining, the prose is vivid and comical, it has a real caper feel to it, with Peter spending most of his time wondering how the hell he ended up involved in yet another disaster. The main storyline of the crime itself is clever and probably, if I knew much about the history, very well researched. The second storyline the resolution of a dispute between two water spirits each claiming to own the Thames has a very mythological quality, and if it reminded me of anything it was of Neil Gaiman's American Gods (but not enough to consider it plagerist) which from me, is a huge compliment.

All in all, if you are into the new "vampire genre", or "magic genre", fantasy books, like Terry Pratchett say (of whom I have to say I've never been a great fan) or if you don't mind crime that's a bit silly and tongue in cheek, you'll like this. If however, you prefer gritty realism with your crime like Stuart MacBride say, or Peter Robinson, you would probably find this annoying. Personally, I really enjoyed it and will definitely be reading the recently published sequel 'Moon Over Soho' 9/10 

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