First Sentence: It started at one thirty on a cold Tuesday morning in January when Martin Turner, street performer and, in his own words, apprentice gigolo, tripped over a body in front of the West Portico of St. Paul’s at Covent Garden.
Constable Peter Grant is still on probation and about to be assigned a post where his days will be filled with paper. It is only by happenstance, that he stumbles on a murder scene and an eyewitness who happens to be a ghost. This unusual situation brings results in his being assigned to assist Det. CI Thomas Nightingale, head of—in fact, the only member of—a unit which investigates the unusual. In this case, they’re facing a turf war, not between gangs, but between gods and goddess of the Rivers of the Thames.
One shouldn’t even try to compare this book to anything else. Although it has elements of many other authors, Aaronvitch is unique, or a brilliant amalgamation, depending upon your viewpoint. One does look forward to tiny homage’s to other characters, as well as very subtle literary references, but there shall be no spoilers here. He has a wonderful voice with classic wry humor.
Told in the first person, we have Constable Grant, who is rather unusual; and Nicholas Wallpenny, who is more unusual still; and DCI Nightingale; most unusual of all…“Nightingale sighed. “No,” he said. “Not like Harry Potter.” “In what way?” “I’m not a fictional character,” said Nightingale. Still, one can’t help but like the completely “normal” DCI Seawall.
The book is an interesting balance of the fanciful and the dark. However, the further you do go into the story, the deeper you are into the world of the supernatural, and the further still you want to go. However, it is also a fascinating mix of the procedural, forensic and scientific. “Magic, it turned out, was just like science in that sometimes it was a question of spotting the bleeding obvious.” Aaronvitch also presents interesting historical and geographic facts in a very non-scholarly manner. How often does one think about where might be the source of the Thames?
Aaronvitch is very good at conveying the chaos of one climatic scene, yet not allowing the reader to become lost. There is very good tension and suspense with a style so visual; one feels as if they are watching a film.
“Midnight Riot” is neither Harry Potter, nor Harry Dresden. It is an absolutely delightful, engrossing, marvelous book and, happily, only the first of the series.
MIDNIGHT RIOT (Pol Proc/Para-DI Peter Grant-London-Contemp) - VG
Aaronvitch, Ben – 1st in series
Del Rey – February, 2010 / Kindle Edition – February, 2011