reviewed by carol
★ ★ ★ ★ 1/2
I haven’t yet been able to review a
Peter Grant book immediately after finishing. I suppose I’m basking in
book afterglow. Once again, Aaronovitch writes an engrossing,
unpredictable urban fantasy, perhaps his best yet.
A good story, a generous sprinkling of
dark police humor, decent police procedural all combine for a read that
fully occupied my Sunday afternoon.
Chuckles as I started:
Sarcasm about family:
“I sighed–policing would be so much easier
if people didn’t have concerned relatives. The murder rate would be much
lower, for one thing.”
“‘I’m fairly certain you’re violating our human rights here,’ she said.
‘No,’ I said with the absolute certainty of a man who’d taken a moment to look up the relevant legislation before leaving home.”
“I made a mental note to wheedle the
list of old codgers out of Nightengale and get it properly sorted into a
database. Hugh’s ‘grapevine’ might be a useful source of information.
If I’d been about four ranks higher up the heirarchy I’d have regarded
it as an opportunity to realise additional intelligence assets through
enhanced stakeholder engagement. But I’m just a constable so I didn’t.”
Okay, maybe that’s not that funny. I
thought so, but then I’m the sort to read the corporate bulletins,
marveling at the abuse of language.
What I really love about
Aaronovich–srsly, now–is that he brings a much looked for but seldom
found level of social commentary to his urban fantasy. Grant has dark
skin, and is painfully obvious out in the posh suburbs. At one point,
there’s a nice little aside when he notes the casual joking racism from
an officer he’s just met. He considers his normal snide comment, half
laughing, half calling it out but then decides to let it go with the
assumption that the officer wouldn’t even recognize the rebuke. I’m
always impressed the way Aaronovich weaves multiculturalism into his
tales, in the most ideal of ways: acknowledging a different cultural
experience, but not fetishizing it or diminutizing the truth of the
experience. Grant understands the because he is a dark-skinned copper he
will end up being ‘poster boy’ for the investigation. There’s a world
of cynicism, weariness and acceptance in the role he plays for the
Grant has his own prejudices about the
country, partly because he feels so out of his element, only going into
the country when required on school trips.
air was still fresh but the sun was already sucking up the moisture
from the fields and you didn’t need to be chewing on a straw to know it
was going to be another hot day.”
There’s also writing that is nicely balanced between description and action, occasionally even making a foray into lyricism:
pack [of reporters] has swept back into the village less than ten
minutes after they’d left, and come boiling up the cul-de-sac like the
return of a tide, licking at my heels as I ran up the path and only
stopping at the hedge line because it was held by a special constable
called Sally Donnahyde who was a primary school teacher in her other job
and so wasn’t going to take any lip from a bunch of journalists. The
kitchen was at the back of the house, but I could still here them as a
restless murmur, like surf on a pebble beach.”
Oh yes, I liked the mystery, one of the
most coherent storylines yet. The supernatural take is interesting, even
if it comes to a somewhat familiar ending, but I appreciate the modern
twist. It did trouble me somewhat that this might be a plot point that
comes back to bite Peter in the butt, which led to unpleasant echoes of
Dresden. But again, that’s what fairy tales and mythology is about,
putting the storyteller’s spin on a cultural archetype.
Characterization is decent, with the
majority of time spent on Peter. I don’t mind; he’s an interesting,
thoughtful lead. I came to like his country partner. This time, Beverly
Brook’s role seemed appropriate and a little more fleshed out, if still
slightly incoherent (must she always speak in riddles? must we have weird watery dalliances?)
In a rare moment for me, I would have
liked a little more punctuation; at times it takes a minute to figure
out the inflection (see above quote). But that’s a stylistic quibble.
The ending, perhaps, was almost the
least satisfying part of the story. Oh, don’t worry; everything wraps up
nicely with no nasty cliffhangers, except that giant multi-book arc
that’s going on. No, it is that the ending seemed a little too
cinematic, and meant to appeal to the current UF reader, instead of
being more character consistent. But that’s me, and I’d be happy to
discuss below with spoiler tags.
Still, Peter Grant remains one of the
most consistently satisfying UF series out there, and I remain committed
to reading whatever Aaronovitch releases.
Four and a half country stars
from my blog at https://clsiewert.wordpress.com/2014/12/17/foxglove-summer-by-ben-aaronovich/