RogerBW's Blog

Whispers Under Ground, Ben Aaronovitch 10 January 2015

Contemporary fantasy. Peter Grant, Metropolitan Police constable and magician, investigates the death of a man found stabbed on Baker Street station.

The plot starts in a fairly conventional way, with unexpected evidence found on the murder scene, and gradual following of its implications into some fairly unexpected places. This works quite well, with no sudden cliff between normal (admittedly magically-aided) police work and dealing with the things that come up as a result of it. The subplots are less well-integrated: one deals with an attempt to trace a group of magicians partly uncovered in Moon Over Soho, another deals with an outsider being brought partly into the fold, but both of them are clearly setup for future books and come as rather clunking changes of pace from the main investigation. And once more Aaronovitch does his annoying trick of eliding a significant series of events near the climax so that he can hint knowingly at them later.

Alas, there's still not enough of the lovely sense of place in London that made the first book stand out so well. There's some of Aaronovitch's usual good description of locations, but apart from architectural notes it's largely happening in the Underground tunnels and sewers, rather than places the typical reader might actually have visited. There is plenty of London history, and it's well-integrated with the core mystery, with only the occasional obvious infodump.

I do feel that if you're going to poke fun at grammar, you should get it right:

The school […] was […] where countless generations of the Peckwater Estate had been educated, including me and Abigail. Or, as Nightingale insists it should be, Abigail and I.

No, it shouldn't, and Nightingale wouldn't make that mistake. Putting the noun before the pronoun is quite separate from putting the pronoun in the right case.

Lesley May is back on stage after her near-absence from Moon over Soho, and now part of the magical organisation. How she doesn't simply take over from Grant isn't clear; she seems to be better than him at pretty much everything except the magic she hasn't had as long to learn. An outsider here is the FBI agent Kimberley Reynolds, brought in when it becomes clear that the victim was American and well-connected; she mostly serves as a mundane viewpoint, since Grant and May are now reasonably familiar with the magical world, but feels like an intrusion from a different sort of book, perhaps deliberately. Or perhaps the author's reaching for an American audience, but then he'd probably have painted her as a bit less trigger-happy. (And the jacket blurb is completely misleading about her. Maybe it was written from an earlier version?)

This book feels as though the series is getting into its groove. It's distinctly better than the uneven Moon over Soho, though for me not quite back to the level of Rivers of London.

"Much as I love standing knee-deep in shit," said Kumar, "it would be a really bad idea to hang around here much longer."

"Why's that?" I asked.

"The water level's rising," he said. "In fact, as the senior officer here I think I'm going to insist." He stared at us, obviously expecting one of us to object.

"You had us at 'the water level's rising,'" I said.

Followed by Broken Homes.

[Buy this at Amazon] and help support the blog.

See also:
Rivers of London, Ben Aaronovitch
Moon Over Soho, Ben Aaronovitch


  1. Posted by Ashley R Pollard at 03:38pm on 11 January 2015

    "You had us at 'the water level's rising,'" I said.

    That is quite droll, I'll have to steal it.

Comments on this post are now closed. If you have particular grounds for adding a late comment, comment on a more recent post quoting the URL of this one.

Search
Archive
Tags 1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s 2010s 3d printing action aeronautics aikakirja anecdote animation anime army astronomy audio tech base commerce battletech beer boardgaming bookmonth chain of command children chronicle church of no redeeming virtues cold war comedy computing contemporary cornish smuggler cosmic encounter coup cycling dead of winter doctor who documentary drama driving drone ecchi espionage essen 2015 essen 2016 essen 2017 existential risk falklands war fandom fantasy film firefly first world war flash point food garmin drive gazebo geodata gin gurps gurps 101 harpoon historical history horror hugo 2014 hugo 2015 hugo 2016 hugo 2017 hugo 2018 hugo-nebula reread in brief avoid instrumented life kickstarter learn to play leaving earth linux mecha museum mystery naval non-fiction one for the brow opera perl photography podcast politics powers prediction privacy project woolsack pyracantha quantum rail ranting raspberry pi reading reading boardgames social real life restaurant reviews romance rpg a day rpgs science fiction scythe second world war security shipwreck simutrans smartphone south atlantic war squaddies stationery steampunk stuarts suburbia superheroes suspense television the resistance thirsty meeples thriller tin soldier torg toys trailers travel vietnam war war wargaming weather wives and sweethearts writing about writing x-wing young adult
Special All book reviews, All film reviews
Produced by aikakirja v0.1