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Monday, September 10, 2012

Whispers Under Ground, by Ben Aaronovitch ($7.99)

This is the third book in the Constable Peter Grant series. Normally, an author makes at least a stab at bringing new readers into the fold with a précis of the action so far. Aaronovitch just shoots away with the story, not even bothering to tell us his narrator's name for a bit. So, because I enjoyed this very entertaining book and want you to read it, too, here's what it's all about, courtesy of the information provided for the first book, Midnight Riot:

"My name is Peter Grant and until January I was just probationary constable in that mighty army for justice known to all right-thinking people as the Metropolitan Police Service (as the Filth to everybody else). My only concerns in life were how to avoid a transfer to the Case Progression Unit - we do paperwork so real coppers don't have to - and finding a way to climb into the panties of the outrageously perky WPC Leslie May. Then one night, in pursuance of a murder inquiry, I tried to take a witness statement from someone who was dead but disturbingly voluable, and that brought me to the attention of Inspector Nightingale, the last wizard in England. Now I'm a Detective Constable and a trainee wizard, the first apprentice in fifty years, and my world has become somewhat more complicated: nests of vampires in Purley, negotiating a truce between the warring god and goddess of the Thames, and digging up graves in Covent Garden . . . and there's something festering at the heart of the city I love, a malicious vengeful spirit that takes ordinary Londoners and twists them into grotesque mannequins to act out its drama of violence and despair. The spirit of riot and rebellion has awakened in the city, and it's falling to me to bring order out of chaos - or die trying."

POTENTIAL SPOILERS: Here are some other tips: Peter is bi-racial, but bi-racial what, I don't know. There's a reference to "Kambia," so perhaps there's a link to Sierra Leone? Leslie May's face fell off -- :( -- in a prior book in a magic encounter gone awry.

Ah, magic.

About a year ago Peter discovered that magic existed. He was a plod in the police who suddenly found himself Harry-Potterized as an apprentice wizard. He quietly investigates supernatural happenings: ghosts, goblins, faeries, magic spells. His expertise is called upon when a body is discovered in a London subway tunnel. There's something goofy afoot, and when Peter examines the body, he gets a tingle that signifies a magical interference. The victim, an American, had been stabbed with a shard of magical pottery.

You have to have guessed that there's a sense of humor at work here. At one point Peter is talking to an FBI agent, who sarcastically asks if he finds the murder of an American citizen funny. Peter says, "I was tempted to tell her it was because we were British and actually had a sense of humor." Ooo, snap.

Although Lesley's magical affliction sounds gruesome and debilitating, this is not a gruesome book and she remains an important part of the book. I was charmed by this adult-themed wizardy wonderfulness. Obviously, though, it's better if you read  the first book first.

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