Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch

Considering how long it’s been since I’ve visited my own blog, that means that this book had to be something special.  I gave it five stars and a little blurb on Goodreads, but sat here (at my uncomfortable computer desk so feel honoured Mr Aaronovitch) thinking that this book deserved more than just a quick link on Goodreads.  More people will probably read that little blurb on Goodreads than would possibly read this, but the urge to splurge some words hit me, and what is a blog for anyway, but to blurt out our innermost thoughts and feelings, no matter who or what might read them.

As a wannabe writer, my dream is to publish a reasonably well-written tale that is somewhat witty, and clever, and will make people sit up and take notice (and buy it).  I have become a critical reader now, looking for mistakes in others so that I may learn from them and not repeat those mistakes, but after a while, it sort of defeats the purpose of writing, which is to, well, write.  But sometimes, you read something so clever and witty and well-written, that you have to sit down and take your metaphorical hat off to them, because this book is one of those books.

Rivers of London starts off like this:

“It started at one thirty on a cold Tuesday morning in January when Martin Turner, street performer and, in his own words, apprentice gigolo, tripped over a body in front of the West Portico of St Paul’s at Covent Garden. Martin, who was none too sober himself, at first thought the body was that of one of the many celebrants who had chosen the Piazza as a convenient outdoor toilet and dormitory. Being a seasoned Londoner, Martin gave the body the ‘London once-over’ – a quick glance to determine whether this was a drunk, a crazy or a human being in distress. The fact that it was entirely possible for someone to be all three simultaneously is why good-Samaritanism in London is considered an extreme sport – like base-jumping or crocodile-wrestling. Martin, noting the good-quality coat and shoes, had just pegged the body as a drunk when he noticed that it was in fact missing its head.”

I knew from the moment I read that first paragraph that I was on to something special.  I can’t believe it took me four years to find this book.  Imagine my utter joy when I realised that there are four more books in the series, already published.  That is the best thing about discovering something late.  You don’t get the angst of waiting.  Don’t get me wrong, sometimes waiting is a good thing, but sometimes, you just want instant gratification.  That’s why I always wait for the full season of Game of Thrones to air before i watch the first episode.  That was beside the point.

This book is narrated by PC Peter Grant, a young constable in London, who encounters a ghost at the scene of a grisly murder (that would be the aforementioned headless body).  His paranormal encounter begins an adventure into a life that was hardly what he was expecting, having been told by his supervisor that he was destined to be a glorified clerk.  Aaronovitch’s witty style and grace and gorgeous attention to detail make this book an absolute pleasure to read.  The best part though, is the feeling of place while you read it.  I experienced London as if I was there again, even though I haven’t visited for over ten years. It all came flooding back, and the nostalgia was almost tangible.  I’m not sure how people who’ve never visited London will react to the book, but for me, this was the best part.

I recommend this book to lovers of paranormal fiction, crime fiction, fantasy fiction, fiction, non-fiction, the written word.  Basically, anyone who can read.

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