Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Review: Moon Over Soho - Ben Aaronovitch


The song. That’s what London constable and sorcerer’s apprentice Peter Grant first notices when he examines the corpse of Cyrus Wilkins, part-time jazz drummer and full-time accountant, who dropped dead of a heart attack while playing a gig at Soho’s 606 Club. The notes of the old jazz standard are rising from the body—a sure sign that something about the man’s death was not at all natural but instead supernatural.

Moon Over Soho is the second book in Ben Aaronovitch’s  quirky, offbeat urban fantasy/police procedural series.  Our hero is Peter, a constable with the London police and because of his ability to perform magic, the only apprentice to wizard and detective chief inspector, Thomas Nightingale.  Together the two make up the entirety of the magic police department.

In this outing, Peter has two mysteries to investigate.  The first is the deaths of several jazz musicians, which appears to be straight forward except for the lingering presence of magic that exudes from the bodies.  The presence of magic indicates that there is more here than meets the eye.  The second involves an unknown woman murdering men via vagina dentata.

There is a lot to enjoy in this book.  First there is Peter who is not the typical urban fantasy hero. . I’m used to my UF heroes/heroines being powerful, ass kicking loners. Peter, however, is an apprentice who’s skills are still developing.  He has much to learn about the basics of magic and thus must practice over and over to acquire skill over his abilities.  It’s refreshing to read about a character who’s skills are pretty elementary.  Peter is not incompetent, just inexperienced.  He’s a steady, reliable, slightly goofy character with a wry sense of humor.

Also, unlike the majority of urban fantasy heroes, Peter is not an orphan.  He has a normal relationship with his parents, meaning he is sometimes embarrassed by them, sometimes exacerbated by them, but he always loves them.  I can totally relate.

The supporting cast is strong.  The book is peopled with a diverse cast, who are not defined soley by their ethnicity, (a pet peeve of mine).  Aaronovitch’s characters ring true as the assorted type of folk one would find in a city like London.  

Moon Over Soho is funny but not silly.  It’s a gritty, realistic world that never overwhelms the humor.  The superficial comparison would be to Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files but in tone, I think the better comparison is to Doctor Who.  Which makes sense.  Aaronovitch is a former writer for the Doctor Who series. 

This is a solid second entry in a fun new series.  Definitely recommended.
Grade: B+

Just a side note:  Over at Neth space there is a post about the possible white washing of the cover.  It does seem strange that the final cover shows a man in silhouette instead of a man of color.

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