RogerBW's Blog

Broken Homes, Ben Aaronovitch 27 April 2016

Contemporary fantasy, fourth in the series. Peter Grant, Metropolitan Police constable and magician, looks into a number of cases that seem to be tying back to a Brutalist tower block in Southwark.

This series sucked me in by observing real places in London, precisely and lovingly, and much of its early joy was in putting skewed meanings on real oddities of life. So it's a bit of a disappointment that the tower block in question is a completely fictitious one, occupying the space that historically was taken up by the Heygate Estate next to Elephant and Castle.

It's more of a disappointment that we take so long to get to that block; when Peter and Lesley inevitably move in, it's more than half-way through the book, with the first half spent on a mish-mash of cases that never really go anywhere and a not at all plot-relevant, though to be fair highly atmospheric, sequence as faerie comes to Bernie Spain Gardens on the South Bank and demands that the police provide security. This often feels like a middle volume, building on things that have been previously established (really, don't start the series here) and leaving new hooks for things that will happen in the future but not really resolving much in itself. The Big Bad of the series to date is caught, but of course gets away.

Looking on the brighter side, Grant's narrative voice is still distinctive and amusing without (mostly) being annoying; people are mentioned as "white" when they are, rather than it being the assumed default; mundane police work is still important, though in these cases it doesn't really go anywhere.

There's a "Night Witch" who isn't one of those Night Witches, though she is Russian and was a magician in the Great Patriotic War, and it seems a bit paltry to re-use the term. But maybe that's just me.

The core conceit is revealed with a grand flourish as though nobody had ever thought of zntvpny nepuvgrpgher before and needed it led up to slowly and carefully with lots of hand-holding. Maybe some people haven't. I found it a bit of a let-down, as I'd been assuming that core concept and going on to try to work out why it was behaving this way in this particular case. There isn't, in the end, much mystery to be solved here.

The ending generated a great deal of fuss, as things are set up to look as though a major character has turned traitor. It didn't quite work for me, as I noticed the weasel words and lack of precise observations, leaving all sorts of ways for this to be got out of in a future book.

Read it for the characterisation rather than for the plot and action, and there's plenty of enjoyment to be had here. Followed by Foxglove Summer.

[Buy this at Amazon] and help support the blog. ["As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases."]

Previous in series: Whispers Under Ground | Series: Rivers of London | Next in series: Foxglove Summer

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.

Tags 1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s 2010s 3d printing action advent of code aeronautics aikakirja anecdote animation anime army astronomy audio audio tech aviation base commerce battletech beer boardgaming book of the week bookmonth chain of command children chris chronicle church of no redeeming virtues cold war comedy computing contemporary cornish smuggler cosmic encounter coup covid-19 crime cthulhu eternal cycling dead of winter doctor who documentary drama driving drone ecchi economics en garde espionage essen 2015 essen 2016 essen 2017 essen 2018 essen 2019 essen 2022 essen 2023 existential risk falklands war fandom fanfic fantasy feminism film firefly first world war flash point flight simulation food garmin drive gazebo genesys geocaching geodata gin gkp gurps gurps 101 gus harpoon historical history horror hugo 2014 hugo 2015 hugo 2016 hugo 2017 hugo 2018 hugo 2019 hugo 2020 hugo 2022 hugo-nebula reread in brief avoid instrumented life javascript julian simpson julie enfield kickstarter kotlin learn to play leaving earth linux liquor lovecraftiana lua mecha men with beards mpd museum music mystery naval noir non-fiction one for the brow opera parody paul temple perl perl weekly challenge photography podcast politics postscript powers prediction privacy project woolsack pyracantha python quantum rail raku ranting raspberry pi reading reading boardgames social real life restaurant reviews romance rpg a day rpgs ruby rust scala science fiction scythe second world war security shipwreck simutrans smartphone south atlantic war squaddies stationery steampunk stuarts suburbia superheroes suspense television the resistance the weekly challenge thirsty meeples thriller tin soldier torg toys trailers travel type 26 type 31 type 45 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