Probationary Constable Peter Grant dreams of being a detective in London’s Metropolitan Police. Too bad his superior plans to assign him to the Case Progression Unit, where the biggest threat he’ll face is a paper cut. But Peter’s prospects change in the aftermath of a puzzling murder, when he gains exclusive information from an eyewitness who happens to be a ghost. Peter’s ability to speak with the lingering dead brings him to the attention of Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale, who investigates crimes involving magic and other manifestations of the uncanny. Now, as a wave of brutal and bizarre murders engulfs the city, Peter is plunged into a world where gods and goddesses mingle with mortals and long-dead evil is making a comeback on a rising tide of magic. – Goodreads description
When I started this book I wasn’t really sure what to expect. Then I got a few chapters in and thought, you know what? The quote from Diana Gabaldon on the front cover is actually pretty accurate: “What would happen if Harry Potter grew up and joined the Fuzz.”
The tone was quick-witted, pithy, entertaining – much like the Harry Potter books. I was hooked right from the first page and needed to know what happened next. The main character, Peter Grant, is definitely one I liked. The premise (at first, anyway) also appealed – a highly practical young police officer discovers that he’s able to see ghosts. Not only that, but the ghosts can actually provide witness information on crimes, though figuring out how to account for the origin of the information is a challenge.
So we have Peter, grappling with the idea of seeing ghosts and not sure what to make of it, back at the spot he first saw a ghost in the hopes that he will be re-visited. Ender DCI Thomas Nightingale, who is no stranger to this phenomenon.
As Peter begins working with Nightingale, however, things get curiouser and curiouser. What was at first just an ability to interview dead witnesses becomes an entire supernatural plot – including magic, vampires, magical disfigurement, and river gods/goddesses. This was about where the plot started to lose me. Ghosts, sure. But add in the full gammut of random supernatural creatures and events and I start to get bored if it’s not done really, really well.
By the time Punch and Judy entered the mix I was pretty much over it. Not only that, but some parts of the book were really, really confusing. I didn’t understand the river deities at all. Not only did I not get how they were human but not human, but I didn’t get what their supposed powers were, why they were being dragged into the plot in the first place, and I didn’t really like any of them. The rules of the magical element were likewise vague, as were the explanations of how magic worked. Even the relationships Peter has left me feeling conflicted. There’s this sort-of thing between him and Lesley which could be really sweet. But then there’s this sort-of thing with one of the river goddesses that makes Peter seem pretty fickle. So I liked him less and less as the book continued. By the end, though there were glimpses of the original tone of the book here and there, it had pretty much lost me.
Which is a real shame, because it could have been excellent. I would have liked it a lot better if Peter’s character had been developed – let us get to know him more before the supernatural creeps in. Show us his family, his friends, where he grew up. Then throw in one – maybe two, at the most – supernatural elements. Definitely not ghosts, magic AND weird random god-people. It’s just too much, yo.
This is the first book in a series that has done quite well, so I might give Moon Over Soho a shot if I’m ever at a loose end reading-wise, just to see if Aaronovitch gets a better hold on his characters as the story progresses. I definitely didn’t hate the book, but my lasting impression is a vague sense of confusion.
Author: Ben Aaronovitch
Published By: Gollancz
Released: January 10, 2011
Genre: Fiction, Supernatural, Crime