Friday, 24 January 2014

Moon Over Soho by Ben Aaronovitch

I got pushed into reading this slightly earlier than I had intended - but my mother is here for a visit, and she started to read the first book, and as she neared the end, there started to be threats about what might happen if I didn't hurry up and finish this one. (Threats of booknapping!)

So I did, and finished it in record time, which didn't particularly surprise me, as these are easy reads. But oh-so-fun and entertaining. Aaronovitch has such a knack for turns of phrase that make me grin. And Peter Grant remains an incredibly entertaining lead character, and the exploration of what magic means in this world is very interesting.

Peter, you see, isn't quite satisfied with the "well, it's magic, isn't it?" explanation. He's noticed that batteries turn to sand around magic, and otherwise, well, let's just say that the energy has to come from somewhere, and "this is your brain on magic" has a fairly literal meaning. So he's gradually experimenting on figuring this out.

In between cases, of course. And with his governor still on sick leave, he's about all the magical protection London's got. Of course, his fireballs don't always go off, but at least he's not exploding apples anymore!

Peter is embroiled in two cases - one involving men who have been killed by vagina dentata, and the other surrounding jazzmen, who are dying with alarming regularity, right after gigs. And "Body and Soul" rests in the air around the bodies.

In the meantime, Peter's romantic life isn't any less complicated. Beverley Brook is off living with Father Thames people these days. Leslie's face fell off in the last book. (And this is something I really liked, the refusal to back away from the repercussions of what happened last book. Poor Leslie's face isn't something that can just be fixed by either magic or medical science. Small steps can be taken, but there is no magic bullet. So to speak.) And the first jazzman Peter investigates has a sexy girlfriend who seems interested....

Yet again, these are fun, if sometimes oddly paced. I think the odd pacing, though, is because Aaronovitch is determined to write about policing as it is rarely written about. Once on a case, police don't, can't, individually, work around the clock. They can't devote themselves entirely to everything that comes along. At some point, they have to go home, watch soccer, and try to be something other than a police officer for a little bit. There's not really another option. And yet, so much TV and fiction have given us those preternaturally dedicated law enforcement or private detectives, who work round the clock on that one big case, tirelessly, unaffected by sleep deprivation. And then it's done, and then they can relax.

But Aaronovitch makes the point that there's rarely just one big case, and you can't go without sleep or downtime, or else you'll burn out (and with magic, that could be quite nasty.) So in the middle of following up leads on the cases he's working on, he'll go home at the end of the day. Or in the early hours of the morning, and sleep until noon.

This undercuts the drive of the novel, but it makes another point, and I think it's a good one. We see Peter both on and off-duty, and have to realize that there is such a thing as off-duty, and there has to be, even in the middle of two big cases, because there will never be a time without big cases.

At any rate, this is the type of meandering I'm glad to be along for. I wasn't quite as attached as I was to Midnight Riot, but then, that had the theatrical backdrop. I like jazz, but I'm don't respond as strongly to it.

But this is a worthy successor to the first book, and I'm still eager to read the third!

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