Book Four of the Rivers of London / Peter Grant Series
by Ben Aaronovitch
Urban Fantasy | 357 Pages | Published by Gollancz in 2013
Broken Homes continues the story of Peter Grant which began with Rivers of London/Midnight Riot and continued with Moon Over Soho and Whispers Under Ground.
Finally! After a several-year-interlude, I got around to reading the fourth book in Ben Aaronovitch’s excellent urban fantasy series, Rivers of London. Set on the dark and dangerous streets of London, Broken Homes is an exciting and addictive tale, where the schemes and plots of rogue magicians and a faceless enemy endeavour to make life difficult for Police Constable Peter Grant. With a backdrop of brutalist architecture, grimy streets and urban sprawl, Broken Homes is a fun and refreshing read, and an excellent addition to the series. And, having read the first three books in this series whilst on a university field trip to London where I visited a brutalist architecture exhibition, this entire book was clearly meant to be!
A mutilated body in Crawley. Another killer on the loose. The prime suspect is one Robert Weil; an associate of the twisted magician known as the Faceless Man? Or just a common or garden serial killer?
Before PC Peter Grant can get his head round the case a town planner going under a tube train and a stolen grimoire are adding to his case-load.
So far so London.
But then Peter gets word of something very odd happening in Elephant and Castle, on a housing estate designed by a nutter, built by charlatans and inhabited by the truly desperate.
Is there a connection? And if there is, why oh why did it have to be South of the River.
As usual, Ben Aaronovitch manages to plot a very witty and highly gritty tale of magical misadventure vs. the strong arm of the law. London is brilliantly illuminated and Aaronovitch manages to capture the magical and whimsical side of urban fantasy whilst throwing you head first into a dark and unsettling tale of rogue practitioners, mischievous fae and The Faceless Man. Broken Homes is a tale of strange magics and even stranger characters where trust is hard to come by and loyalties are too often tested. This book, in all its urban glory, is easily devoured, thoroughly enjoyable and incredibly hard to put down.
London is described in effortless detail and the premise of the story is so rooted in our own past and present (minus the hocus pocus… perhaps) that you could almost believe it was real. The narrative is fast-paced and humorous, the dialogue snappy and to the point and Aaronovitch writes an incredible action scene – I can almost see the walls cracking, glass shattering, bricks crumbling and dust choking the air. The narrative also manages to convey the social and environmental impact that numerous brutalist architectural schemes have had on the urban environment with attention to detail and a good dose of magic and humour.
Peter Grant is a fantastic protagonist whose narrative gives an excellent portrayal of his character, and Nightingale’s role as resident antique and gentlemanly badass provides a perfect and often hilarious contrast. These are characters who always keep me reading, and always leave me wanting more. Plot might be the driving force behind these novels but the other characters, both magical and mundane, are captured with that ready wit and with the brief descriptions required to provide an accurate snapshot for a fast-paced and fantastical tale.
Ben Aaronovitch is an author who can weave the fantastic through a very human world and, though the subject matter was right up my alley, I would recommend his books to all those who love their urban fantasy gritty and real, yet fast-paced and funny. Broken Homes is an inventive and fun read which leaves you on a cliff edge for the next novel… now I just need to get my hands on Foxglove Summer!