Author: Ben Aaronovitch
Published: Out Now
RRP: Print £7.99 – Kindle £1.99
My name is Peter Grant, and until January I was just a probationary constable in that mighty army for justice known as the Metropolitan Police Service (or the Filth). My only concerns were not getting assigned to the Case Progression Unit and how to get into WPC Leslie May’s pants. Then one night I tried to take a witness statement from someone who’d been dead for over a century, that brought me to the attention of DI Nightingale, the last wizard in England.
Now I’m a DC and trainee wizard, the first apprentice in fifty years, and my world has become a whole lot more complicated. Nests of vampires in Purley, digging up graves in Covent Garden, brokering a peace between the warring gods and goddesses that rule over the Thames and its tributaries. But there’s something festering at the heart of the city I love, a malicious, vengeful spirit that takes ordinary people and turns them into grotesque mannequins to act out its drama of violence and despair.
The spirit of riot and rebellions has awakened in the city, and its fallen to me to bring order to the chaos; or die trying.
I’ve been hearing about the PC Grant books for a while, I’d always steered away because I was worried that it would just be a Harry Potteresque story, about an apprentice who is better than everyone else and shows the experts how to do it. I’m glad to say that when I finally did get round to picking a copy up that I was so wrong.
There are elements of Harry Potter in there – the story has magic – but its how Harry Potter would have been if he’d been ten years older, a lot more cynical and was born a raised in London. Peter Grant is not your ordinary wizard; he’s not your ordinary copper. He over-thinks things too much, but in over-thinking them he manages to see what is there better than some others. Deemed to be too cerebral to be an ordinary copper Peter is sidelined into the Case Progression Unit, his role, in-putting all the data “ordinary” coppers collate. It’s a dead-end assignment and not what he’d signed up for; lucky for him the guy he took a witness statement from one cold January morning happened to be a ghost.
One dead body, one ghost witness and Peter’s life is turned upside down. Within days he is thrust into a world of magic, gods, demons and other creatures that shouldn’t be allowed into polite society. To his credit Peter handles the transition fairly well, he guided through the rules and pitfalls that come with him being an apprentice. He is introduced to age old agreements between the supernatural world and the Metropolitan Police Service. But something is hell bent on tearing that fragile peace to shreds.
The plot slowly builds, each set piece introducing Peter – and the reader – to the hidden world that coexists alongside ours. There is a lot of interesting history thrown in for good measure, showing the author has gone out of his way to set his story in a grounded reality. I liked the fact that London itself is a character in the story, its streets, buildings and the rivers that flow through it, all have a part to play and add something to the tale as a whole.
If I had any niggles it’s that I’d liked to have seen more of DI Nightingale, but I suppose this isn’t his story, and seeing there are already three more books in the series out, I’m guessing more of his story will come out as Peter’s training progresses.