Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Review of Broken Homes by Ben Aaronovitch (2013, Gollancz)

A trace of a blood in the boot of a car, the owner a suspected illicit practioner of magic. A locksmith cooked from the inside-out. A town-planner stepping off a platform in front of a train. The appearance of a stolen book on industrial-scale magic of German origin. PC Peter Grant is dashing between cases that appear to be linked to his nemesis, the Faceless Man. The leads point to a notorious sink estate in Elephant and Castle in South London, designed by an infamous German emigre. Not sure what he is looking for, but certain that the estate holds the key, Grant and his colleague, Leslie take up residence, assured that something strange is taking place.

Broken Homes is the fourth book in the urban fantasy meets police procedural, Rivers of London series. The story revolves around an estate in South London, notorious for its strange and fortress-like design that has made it a no-go area for authorities. The local council is seeking to knock it down to build something new. Residents want to be left alone. And another force seems intent on using it for something else. Peter Grant and colleagues, who specialise in policing strange phenomena, are interested in discovering more about the latter, which seems linked to some mysterious deaths elsewhere in London. It’s an enjoyable read, with a nice set of characters, intriguing elements, and usual humour. However, while there is a full story arc, the tale felt a bit too much like a bridging entry in the series, being a little too meandering and open-ended, with a number of threads that are unresolved or not fully explained. And the lack of backstory with respect to all the threads – the unit Grant works for, Lesley’s face, the Faceless Man, the Rivers – would make it a quite confusing standalone read. Nonetheless, an entertaining addition to the series.

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