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Moon Over Soho is the second of the PC Grant series, the first been Rivers of London. It follows PC Peter Grant the first official wizards apprentice in sixty years and his mentor DCI Thomas Nightingale who are investigating the brutal murder of a journalist in the toilet of a Soho nightclub. The story beyond this follows many different pathways involving a Dark Magician, PC Grants love interests and a mysterious Pale Lady. Some of the underlying stories link in to the original book, such as Peter rebuilding his relationship with Lesley who was horrifically injured in Rivers of London. There are a good ten characters that make a reappearance which makes reading this book seem like a seamless continuation of the last one, with time scales remaining realistic. If however you are reading this book without reading the first there is some back story included. But not a great deal.
The strongest point of this book has to be PC Grant himself, his character is brilliantly written. He carries all the traits you would expect of a London boy working in the modern day police force. He is incredibly funny, self depreciating and intelligent. His humor is very dry and written in a non slapstick way and all this is seamlessly integrated into Peters rich knowledge of London, he often refers to London as a "she" and he reveals "her" secrets in a way that really reinforces the perception of this local lad turned copper.
The book tails Peter through all aspects of his life both on duty and off. This allows you to really connect with the main character and it gives an idea of what I imagine life in the police force must be like, as he is never really off duty. The writer Ben Aaronovitch does a very good job of making the police force seem humorous with out making them seem incompetent or coming across as offensive. Through Peter he holds up the forces shortcomings for everyone to read, but to me he just made them seem Human which I thought was very well done.
The pace is often inconsistent, but done intentionally to follow Peters chaotic life. Some days are fast, some days slower. But my interest never waned, partly because it is such an easy fun book to read. There is no long slog to get to the good bits, each page is full of quality writing by a very talented author and I cannot wait to read the third one.
Moon Over Soho is the second of Ben Aaronovitch's PC Peter Grant novels, following on from Rivers of London. PC Grant found himself joining the Met's supernatural division in the first novel, its only other member being his new magic teacher, wizard Thomas Nightingale. He then had some run ins with ghosts, wizards and the spirits of Londons rivers, all the while trying to learn some magic himself.
In Moon Over Soho, Peter has taken on a little more responsibility while Nightingale recovers from the events of Rivers of London. This time round, he is on the trail of a magical being who is sucking the life from jazz musicians just as they finish performing. He and Nightingale also find themselves trying to track down some black magicians.
As with Rivers of London, there are a couple of different storylines running through Moon Over Soho, both of which are full of action and tension, sending Peter into scary situations which he somehow always managed to bluff his way through. The twists and turns are hard to predict, keeping you hooked on the novel - I didn't figure out the conclusion of the main story until it became obvious.
But the action-packed story is only part of the draw of Aaronovitch's novels. His writing style is excellent, absolutely perfectly suited to the setting and character. Peter is a London boy through and through, the city is his manor, and he is an engaging and likeable character. He swears, makes mistakes, and generally fumbles his way through life with flashes of brilliance. I love the language that Aaronovitch uses - the phrase "gone to Bedfordshire" is used, which completely resonates with me and the language used in my world (it means "gone to bed" if you don't know). Peter really is an Everyman, a character who is completely believable and real, someone I can imagine really exists.
The picture of the Metropolitan Police painted in Moon Over Soho (and Rivers of London) is hilarious, while also not implying that they are incompetent. Young PCs are delighted to arrest someone when it's raining, because it means they get to go back to the station for a couple of hours. It reminds me of Stuart Macbride's Logan Macrae novels, which are set in Aberdeen. The image of Grampian Police in those novels is hilarious, and so typically Aberdonian.
As with Rivers of London, the only negative I can see with Moon Over Soho is the supernatural side to the story. A lot of people dismiss some novels based on the fact that they are about the supernatural. It is certainly an intrinsic part of the PC Peter Grant series, but even if you are a reader who avoids these novels, particularly in recent years with the number of supernatural novels flooding the market, I would strongly urge you to give Ben Aaronovitch a try. The books are wonderful, humourous and exciting, and Peter Grant may be a wizard in training, but he's also just a regular bloke. Aaronovitch captures the spirit of his character perfectly, and his novels are real gems.