Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch (Peter Grant #1)
Other elements: Sarcasm, dark humor, crime, mythological figures, complicated blending of the supernatural and science.
Read it: if you like crime shows and fantasy novels.
Overall rating: 9.25/10
This book has been on my to-read list for a long time. I’ve frequently seen it described as “a cross between CSI and Harry Potter.” Let me tell you a thing: the person who wrote that tagline was either kidding or has never read any book that involves magic except for Harry Potter. Even the characters know they’re nothing like Harry Potter.
“You put a spell on the dog,” I said as we left the house.
“Just a small one.” said Nightingale.
“So magic is real,” I said. “Which makes you a …what?”
“Like Harry Potter?”
Nightingale sighed. “No,” he said. “Not like Harry Potter.”
“In what way?”
“I’m not a fictional character,” said Nightingale.” – Page 34
Okay, so he may not have a point there. But this story’s grittyness is really what I think makes any comparison to good old HP inaccurate. Good people are killed and maimed, bystanders are injured, there’s no kindly old man orchestrating things. There are also no children, no morals, and no school. It’s messy, grim, unfair, and definitely not YA. If I were going to compare it to other fictional works, I’d say it was a mixture of CSI (they got that part right) and somewhere between Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett, and Simon R. Green.
“Equipment for ghost hunters: thermal underwear, very important; warm coat; thermos flask; patience; ghost.
It did occur to me early on that this was possibly the most absurd thing I’d ever done.” – Page 21
Probationary Constable Peter Grant is a fledgling member of the London police force who, one day, sees something he’s not supposed to see: a ghost. When an offhand comment he makes to a stranger alerts exactly the right people that he’s not an average cop, he ends up assigned to a branch of the Police force that almost nobody officially knows about – a special team that deals with supernatural crime.
I loved it. The situations are interesting, the characters are fresh, complex, and believable, and the magic is creative and fascinating. The London that Aaronovitch creates is colorful, detailed, and absolutely rich with character. Aaronovitch also strikes absolutely the perfect tone; he’s funny, but he stops short of making things too ridiculous to be believable. This book will make you laugh, but it may also give you nightmares. Not an easy balance to achieve.
Another very interesting aspect: Peter is of mixed-race descent and is very aware of how his skin color and police credentials affect people’s perception’s of him. Aaronovitch doesn’t beat you over the head with the racial elements of Peter’s story, but race is always there as a factor that Peter knows could pop up at any minute. When it does come up, it’s treated bluntly and matter-of-factly, with no sugarcoating. Peter’s skin color is something that affects his life, so it comes up in his story. The way that Aaronovitch handled this was one of the things that made this book exceptional to me. It really added to the feeling that this story – with all its demigods and evil spirits – was really happening in our world, with all of its problems, both human and supernatural.
This is book is whip-smart, unique, and highly entertaining. There are two sequels so far and I’ve already bought both of them. If it sounds like your kind of thing, I recommend you pick it up ASAP.