Thursday, 16 June 2011

Book #47 Moon Over Soho by Ben Aaronovitch

Moon Over Soho

Another day, another vampire novel. I'm honestly not seeking them out, they're everywhere these days, a little hard to avoid, and in this case, the book is the recently published sequel to the recently reviewed Rivers Of London.

This book picks up where the last left off with bumbling PC and apprentice wizard Peter Grant investigating an unfortunate series of crimes involving 'vagina dentata' in one plot and the unexpected deaths of jazz musicians in the other. Again, I enjoyed its easily engaging style, a little tongue-in-cheek with a likeable, self-deprecating lead.

Unfortunately, I had a problem. I solved the mystery VERY early on in terms of one of the plots. I don't know whether this is a consequence of being somebody who reads a lot, writes and watches a lot of films, making me somebody who understands a lot about how stories work, and patterns writers use or whether it was just genuinely obvious, and would be to anyone, particularly anyone who'd read the first book. Books still do surprise me, particularly recently George R.R Martin's A Storm Of Swords, so perhaps a book that can't or doesn't surprise you is an example of lazy or poor writing.

These books aren't serious crime novels, more romps and light-hearted escapism. Maybe they oughtn't be more challenging in their mysteries, because they aren't that sort of book, the reader is pretty much along for the ride, but it was quite disappointing. Inept as Peter Grant may be, even he should have realised far sooner than he did. The originality shown in Rivers Of London is still present but the concept of the story is let down by the execution. It seems a little ridiculous to accuse a fantasy novel of lacking realism, but a fantasy story should at least be believable within its own framework.

Another thing with both Rivers Of London and Moon Over Soho is that they feel very current, there are references to iPads and Twitter, but this is a dangerous thing to do if you seek to write a book that proves timeless. Popular culture references date books badly, in twenty years will young readers know what these are? I doubt that an 18 year old today reading a older book that might reference such technological wonders as the ZX Spectrum or the Acorn Electron would have the foggiest clue what they were like. (Showing my age!)

One of the books strengths though is the feeling that you get that Aaronovitch, beneath the vampires, the magicians and the strange women with teeth in their vagina loves London and is in part writing a love letter to the city, there's something very endearing about that.

The problem with this book essentially is: although it had vampires, AND a woman with teeth in her vagina, it lacked any real bite whatsoever. The thing is I like Nightingale and Grant, I like the world Aaronovitch has created, and would consider it a foregone conclusion that I will read the third in the series 'Whispers Under Ground', to be published sometime next year. I like the world he's created enough to overlook the flaws. It reminds me slightly of when I was disappointed in Harry Potter and The Chamber Of Secrets but went on to read all the other books in the series anyway, because Rowling "had me" with the first book. Later books proved much better and I'm hoping this will be the case with this series too.

Just please Mr Aaronovitch, give me a genuine mystery I can (pardon the pun) get my teeth into, next time! 6/10

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