Tag Archives: Peter Grant

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook The Hanging Tree Book 6 of the Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovitch

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Peter Grant is a fabulous character with a wonderful line in dry humour that oils the wheels in this police procedural urban fantasy series. The previous book, Foxglove Summer, was one of my favourite reads of 2014 – would The Hanging Tree maintain this standard?

thehangingtreeThe Hanging Tree was the Tyburn gallows which stood where Marble Arch stands today. Oxford Street was the last trip of the condemned. Some things don’t change. The place has a bloody and haunted legacy and now blood has returned to the empty Mayfair mansions of the world’s super-rich. And blood mixed with magic is a job for Peter Grant. Peter Grant is back as are Nightingale et al. at the Folly and the various river gods, ghosts and spirits who attach themselves to England’s last wizard and the Met’s reluctant investigator of all things supernatural.

At last Peter’s private life seems to be settling down a bit, but when a member of the Tyburn family is embroiled in murder, Peter finds he is not only trying to unravel the crime, but work out exactly where Olivia fits into the puzzle. Because while she might not be lying, she isn’t telling the whole truth, either. In fact, you probably won’t be shocked to discover that not many folks do tell all. As ever, this seemingly sad but routine death by drugs overdose is nothing of the sort – and its consequences reverberate through Peter’s life as well as everyone else at the Folly.

I started thoroughly enjoying this one. Peter, as ever, is sharp and funny and the initial crime deftly draws in a group of folks, some we’ve met in previous books and others we haven’t. So if you’ve never had the pleasure of reading these books before, you won’t be unduly floundering. However, if you’re sensing a but you’d be right. The last book had a case involving missing children which grabbed me right at the beginning. While The Hanging Tree does reveal a couple of major slices of information regarding the overarching story arc with The Faceless Man, I found the pacing somewhat skewed. This major reveal comes at around 73% into the story – and while there is mayhem in spades after that, I did feel by the end that much of the subsequent action was something of an anti-climax.

Ordinarily, this would have been a huge dealbreaker, but Peter’s narrative voice is so dryly funny, it was still an enjoyable, engaging read, though without the punch of Foxglove Summer.
8/10

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Waiting on Wednesday – 2nd November 2016

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Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine. Each Wednesday you get to highlight a book that you are really looking forward to holding in your hot little hands…

This week I’m keenly anticipating The Hanging Tree – Book 6 of the Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovich.

thehangingtree

The Hanging Tree was the Tyburn gallows which stood where Marble Arch stands today. Oxford Street was the last trip of the condemned. Some things don’t change. The place has a bloody and haunted legacy and now blood has returned to the empty Mayfair mansions of the world’s super-rich. And blood mixed with magic is a job for Peter Grant.

Peter Grant is back as are Nightingale et al. at the Folly and the various river gods, ghosts and spirits who attach themselves to England’s last wizard and the Met’s reluctant investigator of all things supernatural.

And the wonderful news is that I only have to wait another day for this one to ping onto my Kindle. Yippee!

Review of Indie KINDLE edition Take the Star Road – Book 1 of The Maxwell Saga by Peter Grant

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I wanted an enjoyable, entertaining read to while away a long train journey so opened this up. Would it sufficiently draw me in and take me away from the over-enthusiastic air conditioning?

Nineteen-year-old Steve Maxwell just wants to get his feet on the star road to find a better homeworld. By facing down Lotus Tong thugs, he earns an opportunity to become a spacer apprentice on a merchant spaceship, leaving the corruption and crime of Earth behind. Sure, he needs to prove himself to an older, tight-knit crew, but how bad can it be if he keeps his Takethestarrdhead down and the decks clean? He never counted on the interstellar trade routes having their own problems, from local wars to plagues of pirates. Steve’s left a world of troubles behind, only to find a galaxy of them ahead…

This coming of age book takes young Steve from his job as a busboy to managing to get a berth on a merchanter off Earth. I enjoyed the world and Steve’s gritted determination to succeed no matter what. Grant clearly has spent a great deal of time fine-tuning his world, which mostly works well. While the writing style isn’t particularly smooth and at times the dialogue clunks, there is nevertheless an engaging charm about this book that meant the obvious flaws in the writing was more than compensated by the conviction and energy Grant displays.

The good news is that as this is the first book in the series, the writing should steadily improve. Steve’s progress is down to his hard working, intelligent approach, though there were a couple of times when I would have liked to see him falter or just majorly mess up. He teetered on the edge of being a male Mary Sue by about two-thirds of the way through the book, but Grant at least rectified that somewhat by the end.

However, the chirpy, can-do tone of this book makes it an enjoyable read – and also provides a very readable contrast when things do kick off and get violent. The action scenes are handled well and this is when Grant’s writing comes into its own. When I finally arrived home last night, I was sufficiently hooked by the story that I stayed up waaay later than I should to discover what would happen next. While this book isn’t without its issues, I enjoyed it and will be looking to read the next one in the series. 7/10

Review of Whispers Underground – Book 3 in Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovitch

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D.C. Peter Grant – U.K.’s answer to Harry Dresden – serves in a little known branch of the Metropolitan Police. So in this, the third book in the series does Aaronovitch manage to sustain the energy, quirky humour and detailed knowledge that has made this series so popular so quickly?

In Tuffnell Park, North London, a pair of railway tracks dive under a school, taking trains to and from Kings Cross. Wet, filthy, dangerous. Lovely place. And one Sunday before Christmas a sweet (sort of) kid called Abigail took me and my long-suffering Lesley May down there to look for a ghost.

We found one.

whispersundergroundAnd that was that, I thought, because come Monday, I get to do some proper policing. Persons Unknown has been stabbed to death on the tracks at Baker Street tube. Magic may have been involved. And sure enough, in the blood; vestigia, the tell-tale trail magic leaves. Person Unknown turns out to be the son of a US senator and before you can say ‘International Incident’, FBI agent Kimberley Reynolds and her firmly held religious beliefs are on my case. And down in the dark, in the tunnels of London’s Underground, the buried rivers, the Victorian sewers, I’m hearing whispers of ancient arts and tortured, vengeful spirits…

That’s the premise – and with that we are whisked off in Peter Grant’s engaging, chirpy first person viewpoint to a ringside seat as he embarks on another investigation. Once more, we are treated to his cinematic descriptions of the city he clearly loves and knows as well as a London cabbie, while he plunges into another plot more twisty than Mama Thames herself.

Lesley May is accompanying him for most of the ride – and the sparky, yet poignant interaction between the two of them lit up sections of the book for me. In any successful long-running series, it becomes as much about the supporting characters as the protagonist. Aaronovitch doesn’t rely solely on having one of the most cheekily engaging main characters to keep our interest – he also surrounds Peter with a quirky cast. This ranges from Molly, the housekeeper at The Folly (think Mrs Hudson with sharp teeth and chronic insomnia); Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale, Peter’s boss and that last official English wizard, to the pantheon of headstrong river goddesses who all seem to have a bit of a thing for Peter…

Aaronovitch is a highly experienced writer and knows that one of his writing strengths is creating powerfully effective backdrops, providing mood music to the action. This book has underground tunnels as a creepy setting to the action – not just the Underground, but also slices of the complex warren that burrows under London for a variety of purposes. I’d strongly advise you to avoid reading the passages set in the sewer while eating your dinner – it’ll put you right off your food…

Whispers Underground is every bit as good as the first two books – if anything, better. Peter’s character sings off the page and as Aaronovitch refines and fleshes out the world and supporting cast, his voice gains in emotional depth and confidence. This is certainly one of 2012’s outstanding reads.
10/10

Review of Moon Over Soho – Book 2 of the Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovich

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Ben Aaronovich’s first book, Rivers of London, garnered a great deal of critical acclaim and positive attention from reviewers and critics alike. I certainly enjoyed it. So, does the sequel, released only a few months later by those busy folks at Orion, live up to the high standard set by the first book?

The song. That’s what London constable and sorcerer’s apprentice Peter Grant first notices when he examines the corpse of Cyrus moonoversohoWilkins, part-time jazz drummer and full-time accountant, who dropped dead of a heart attack while playing a gig at Soho’s 606 Club. The notes of the old jazz standard are rising from the body—a sure sign that something about the man’s death was not at all natural but instead supernatural.

Body and soul – they’re also what Peter will risk as he investigates a pattern of similar deaths in and around Soho. With the help of his superior officer, Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale, the last registered wizard in England, and the assistance of beautiful jazz aficionado Simone Fitzwilliam, Peter will uncover a deadly magical menace – one that leads right to his own doorstep and to the squandered promise of a young jazz musician: a talented trumpet player named Richard “Lord” Grant – otherwise known as Peter’s dear old dad.

Apart from the fact that this book reaffirms Aaronovich’s detailed research/knowledge of London’s tucked-away corners and we learn that he is also a jazz nut – it also firmly establishes this series as One To Watch. Peter Grant is a delightful protagonist – funny, slightly vulnerable and insatiably curious. And someone who seems to trip over trouble with great frequency. I liked the way this book immediately picks up the threads from Rivers of London, so we get to see more of the engaging cast of characters. Molly is a standout favourite and I’m waiting to see her get a lot more action. Peter’s long-suffering mentor, DCI Nightingale is still recovering from the injuries he sustained at the climactic ending of Rivers of London, as is PC Lesley May, Peter’s girlfriend. We also get to see more of the river deities at the heart of this series and the adventure with Ash is one of the more exuberant set pieces in the middle of this fast-paced whodunit. It is a relief to have an urban fantasy protagonist who isn’t nursing all sorts of major emotional damage due to a dysfunctional upbringing. While Peter was raised in a tough part of town, he also has a strong, loving family around him – even if it was rather haphazard.

I sort of guessed who was responsible for killing off the jazz musicians well before the denouement – though that didn’t really matter. I hadn’t seen the how and besides there’s another case where the threat is even more deadly and is clearly going to be taking up Peter’s time in the next book. The humour threading through the story immediately drew me in and held me. I read the book in a single sitting – however, in devouring it so greedily I’m conscious that I’m selling this novel short. There is a wealth of detail packed alongside the engrossing storyline – descriptions of London haunts; snippets of magical lore and delightfully irreverent insights into police procedure. So you can pounce on it and gorge on the story, but I think this is also a book that would benefit from being reread at a slower pace to fully appreciate what Aaronovich has crafted and I’m very much looking forward to reading the next book in the series, Whispers Under Ground.
10/10

Review of Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch

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It isn’t that often I come across London-based Brit fantasy – as it happens, I was reading this as poor old London was still reeling from the depredations of a bunch of thieving mongrels. I’d pounced on this offering with some anticipation, particularly when I read Ben Aaronovitch’s c.v. The man is an experienced screen writer, with a number of tie-in novels under his belt – not that you’d need the biog on the back cover to tell you that. Just open up the book and read the first two paragraphs and you know you’re in the hands of someone who knows what he is doing…

riversoflondonMy name is Peter Grant. Until January I was just another probationary constable in that mighty army for justice known to all right-thinking people as the Metropolitan Police Service, and to everyone else as the Filth. My only concerns in life were how to avoid a transfer to the Case Progression Unit – We do paperwork so real coppers don’t have to – and finding a way to climb into the panties of the outrageously perky WPC Lesley May. Then one night, in pursuance of a murder inquiry, I tried to take a witness statement from a man who was dead, but disturbingly voluble and that brought me to the attention of Chief Inspector Nightingale, the last wizard in England. And that, as they say, is where the story begins.

Now I’m a Detective Constable and a trainee wizard, the first apprentice in fifty years, and my world has become somewhat more complicated. I’m dealing with nests of vampires in Purley, negotiating a truce between the warring god and goddess of the Thames, and digging up graves in Covent Garden – and that’s just routine. There’s something festering at the heart of the city I love, a malicious, vengeful spirit that takes ordinary Londoners and twists them into grotesque mannequins to act out its drama of violence and despair.

The spirit of riot and rebellion has awakened in the city, and it’s falling to me to bring order out of chaos – or die trying. Which, I don’t mind telling you, would involve a hell of a lot of paperwork.

There you have it – a quirky, enjoyable adventure with lots of pace and humour, which nicely leavens the gorier moments. Peter is a coolly unflappable mixed-raced young Londoner with a very low boredom threshold, who is good at thinking on his feet. His laconic narrative, along with the long suffering observations about the labyrinth of police paperwork and procedures adds an extra twist of enjoyment to this tightly plotted piece of supernatural high jinks. As this is the first book in a series, I think Mr Aaronovitch has been very savvy in starting off in chirpy mode as in my experience, these urban fantasy serials tend to get progressively darker in tone. Just think of the difference in feel between Storm Front and Ghost Story in Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files, for instance.  Peter’s relationship with his enigmatic superior Detective Inspector Nightingale has clearly got legs. For starters, they live in a spooky neo-Gothic fortress, complete with a creepy housekeeper, (think Mrs Hudson with sharp teeth…) and a running gag about the odd combinations that turn up in the packed lunches.

One of the major characters in this book is mentioned in the title – London. Not only does Aaronovitch use some of the major tourist sites as backdrops to some of his set pieces, he also casually drops in actual café names and walks his readers through real neighbourhoods. In addition, he has woven the city’s history into this very contemporary tale – a really neat trick, as London’s past is part of its everyday richness. The patina of history lies as thickly as the traffic fumes along many of our capital’s streets – and Aaronovitch deftly mines this historical treasure trove to underpin his tale of mayhem and chaos. All in all, this is an enjoyable and accomplished novel, crackling with energy and humour and I forward to reading the next book.
10/10