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.