Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Review of Whispers Under Ground by Ben Aaronovitch (Gollancz, 2012)

When a man is found stabbed to death on the tracks at Baker Street tube station, the murder squad would prefer it to be a straightforward case, but there’s no indication as to how he got there. Peter Grant is asked to check out the site to see if a trace of vestigia (a whiff of magic) present. His bosses are not best pleased when he reports that the shard of pottery used to kill the victim is somewhat other-worldly. To add pressure to the case it turns out the murdered man is the son of a US senator and a FBI agent has been assigned to shadow the investigation. While his colleagues chase down the usual kind of leads, Grant and his colleague, Lesley, pursue a different line of inquiry. That path leads them underneath the city, into its conduits, sewers and chambers.

Whispers Under Ground is the third book in the Peter Grant urban fantasy/crime series set in contemporary London. In this outing, Grant is investigating the death of an American, stabbed to death on the tracks in the London underground. As well as continuing his sorcerer's apprenticeship in the secret unit that investigates magical and uncanny crimes, he’s running around at the beck-and-call of the murder squad and jousting with a smart and sassy FBI agent who seems to making better progress with the case than the Met. The joy of this series is Aaronovitch’s engaging voice, the sense of place and potted history of the London, the characterisation, the streak of dark humour, and the everydayness of the magical elements. The case is interesting and forms a nice puzzle and the story winds its way to a very nice chase through underground rail and sewers network, the destination of which was telegraphed from the start. After that the tale seemed to fizzle out a little, with the murderer identified and caught in a relatively straightforward manner, and it wasn’t really clear as to the future of what was found underground. An entertaining story, which I picked up at every opportunity given the compelling qualities of the voice and characters.

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