Saturday, June 23, 2012

Whispers Under Ground by Ben Aaronovitch: book review

Whispers Under Ground by Ben Aaronovitch (Gollancz £12.99)

Reviewed by Jan Edwards

This is the third volume that follows the progress of Peter Grant, Metropolitan Police constable and trainee wizard. This time we are taken below ground into the dank and dangerous world of the London Underground and the sewers where mysterious sightings of ghosts and street people are being linked with organised crime. Goblin markets and underground raves are just two of the things that PCs Peter Grant and Lesley May come across as they investigate the disappearance of a son of a US Senator, aided and mislead by the beautiful and headstrong FBI agent Kimberley Reynolds.

As Whispers Under Ground concentrates very much on the trio of Grant, May and Reynolds, newcomers to Aaronovitch’s London may want to read the first two Peter Grant books Rivers of London and Moon Over Soho in order to fully understand the plotlines. For example: how and where Grant’s mentor Inspector Nightingale, Molly the maid and Ziggy the dog come into the equation. May’s facial destruction, for example is frequently referred to, but only in terms of her reticence to be seen and Grant’s need to see her – which occasionally veers into near obsession without resolution. But these are small points.  

Make no mistake, Whispers Under Ground is a compulsive read, utilising the folklore and urban myths of London and beyond to devastating effect. Aaronovitch ruthlessly plunders the legends of fae magic and river spirits and entwines them seamlessly with such modern myths as 24 Leinster Gardens. Dark humour and atmospheric explorations of the unknown corners beneath London’s streets ensures that Whispers Under Ground does not disappoint. The meticulous research that obviously went into this book makes for an informative read without descending into the lectures and info dumps that so often appear in the many fantasy books that take on unusual settings or events. The magic is ever present but never steps beyond the realms of ‘possibility’, with well-defined limits and ramifications placed on its use.

All in all Whispers Under Ground is another great urban crime fantasy in the ‘Peter Grant’ series, which sets us up nicely for volume four. Highly recommended.

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