Ben Aaronovitch’s Midnight Riot (PC Peter Grant-1) centers around the life and adventures of Peter Grant, a young apprentice wizard and a police constable with the Met. Following his encounter with a ghost while guarding the site of a macabre homicide, Peter’s investigations land him under the tutelage of Thomas Nightingale, head of the supernatural investigations branch and London’s only wizard in residence. Added to the crime investigation is the increasing tensions due to the long time feud between the river gods.
The narrative was witty and light yet became an albeit boring walking guide to the streets and rivers of London. Then there are the undertones of racial profiling as the plot progresses. The anthropomorphic river spirits and gods’ and their petty disputes forms a sub plot and rapidly overtakes the primary plot which involves chasing a revenant spirit and a vengeful ghost. This is further muddled by a brief meeting with vampires who serve as the extras in this delightful novel. And Peter’s attempts at a crash course in magic won’t mean much unless you’ve experienced the wonderful world of Harry Potter. While JK Rowling didn’t go overboard in her attempts to explain magic, her description of the outcome of a spell was enough to connect to the Latin wording. Here, Aaronovitch attempted to amalgamate science with magic, which rendered the entire concept ambiguous and took the charm out of magic.
As for monsters, they appeared to the principal cast while Nightingale seemed like an extra in an epic movie on monsters. And there are the key terms constantly referenced “Lux” and “Vestigia” which overwhelm the plot so much so that I speed read the rest of the book closing my mind off from these terms. In the end, these didn’t mean much since any normal police procedural would involve an armed detective and plenty of clues for a sharp mind to close in on.
Constant references to Harry Potter gave plenty of evidence of Aaronovitch’s source of inspiration but not maintaining the plot at an even pace made this novel flat. I know I sound critical but it gets difficult to praise a novel all the time even when you don’t like it much. I suspect that the reason for its popularity stems from a lack of Harry Potterish characters in the market and Peter Grant, while not perfect seems to cut very close.
I thought I was done with Poirot early last year but I never seem to tire of re-reading his adventures. Poirot’s keen sense of observation of the surroundings, his analytical thinking and his ability to perceive human emotions at a crime scene made him my most favorite character in the fictional universe. So while on a long vacation late last year, I picked up
The Labors of Hercules – Hercule Poirot’s fascination with his namesake in Greek mythology and his equally famous 12 labors prompts him to set on a quest to define and complete his own labors aka. cases. This book is only made delightful by the fact that each of his 12 labors are equally exciting and spell-binding.
Hercule Poirot’s Christmas – Its a book I’ve read before but nonetheless failed to surprise me as I rediscovered the plot, the characters and their pasts not to mention whodunnit. Simeon Lee, a wealthy old man, invites or rather insists his family to join him for Christmas. Not given to emotions, Simeon berates everyone including threatening to alter his will. He is however found dead the same night by his family and nobody’s above suspicion except perhaps the old butler. Hercule Poirot is called in for consulting and it is where the story takes interesting turns. When it comes to closing the case, the identity of the murderer caught me by surprise. Truly it felt like opening a Christmas present to find a cute Havanese pup inside.
The Mysterious Affair at Styles – This is the first book in the Hercule Poirot series, the book that starts it all. And reading it, you can right away notice all of Christie’s trademark touches but the story tends to be a bit longish. This story serves as an introduction to not just Poirot but to other important recurring characters, Hastings and Chief Inspector Japp. While its a slow paced book, it is an interesting read. Not really my favorite though.
My fascination for fairytales prompted me to watch NBC’s TV series Grimm. In case you aren’t familiar, this is a police procedural story set in the lush green settings of Portland and perhaps some of the state parks of Washington, though I’m not completely sure. The creators of this show give a modern day look to the age-old Grimm fairytales giving the monsters and creatures a new meaning. While this series is currently in its 4th season, a couple of writers have novelized certain story lines of the Grimm.
The series features humans – a Portland PD cop named Nicholas Burkhardt with a mysterious past and a subset of human-animal creatures called Wesen. Now the Wesen can woge/change into an animal when agitated and in a state of heightened emotions. While ordinary humans cannot see the Wesen unless they choose to reveal themselves, another subset of humans called the Grimms can see the Wesen. The protagonist of this series is Nick Burkhardt who is a cop and a newly Grimm. So anyways, curiosity got the better of me and I managed to read the following books which I will briefly summarize –
The Icy Touch – The first of the Grimm novellas, The Icy Touch focuses on a blood feud between the Grimm Nick Burkhardt and a Wesen who grows up hating Burkhardt and his family. It is a tale of revenge that dates back centuries and shines light on Nick’s ancestry.
The Chopping Block – Perhaps the most goriest and also the most action-packed of the novellas, The Chopping Block features a mysterious Wesen cabal that whips up and serves the most choicest dishes with human meat as the central theme for Wesen every 25 years. This is a race against time for Nick as he and his team try to stop this cabal once and for all.
While I didn’t get a chance to read The Killing Time, I did read the comic The Coins of Zakynthos. This comic picks up where the series left off i.e. the coins are taken away by Nick’s mother to be destroyed. But are they truly destroyed is the question that can be answered by reading this comic. Unfortunately, Amazon being the spoilsport it is at times, didn’t sell the rest of the comics. If you love the series, do give the books a shot but if you haven’t watched the series at all then be warned that it isn’t for the faint at heart.