BEN AARONOVITCH’s PC Grant series first caught my attention when I was working in a pub in Covent Garden, and finding the tourist-heavy shopping district very boring. His first book in the series, Rivers of London, opens in Covent Garden market, and then spreads through the streets as the plot thickens. Suddenly, the area around me came alive with mystery and adventure.
These topographically accurate tales allow the reader to engage and invest in the story from the start, while other fantasy novels are laboriously world-building.
If you are not a denizen of London, there is still much to enjoy in this series. Part police-detective drama, part supernatural fantasy, the narrator is PC Peter Grant, a junior in the London Metropolitan Police, who is living a reasonably normal life until he encounters strange apparitions in St Paul’s Church, and discovers that there is a magical branch of the Met, founded by none other than Isaac Newton. He becomes a magician’s apprentice to the enigmatic DCI Nightingale, and fantastical high jinks ensue.
The Furthest Station, the latest instalment in the series, sidesteps away from the main story thread, and takes an indulgent but enjoyable dive into part of the Rivers of London mythology: ghosts. There have been sightings on the Metropolitan Line of disintegrating spectres desperate to pass on a message to whoever will listen.
Needless to say, no one listens to the muttering madman on the Tube; so it falls to PC Grant, the London Transport Police, and Toby the ghost-hunting dog to subdue these phantasmagorical commuters.
Aaronovitch’s PC Grant is a new breed of London copper. His narrative is heavy with sarcasm and knowing winks, and has a worldliness that makes wizard duels in Harrods and saxophone-playing ghosts in Soho seem as if it is just another day in the life of the London Met.
Anna Lawrence is Managing Editor for Hymns Ancient & Modern Periodicals.
The Furthest Station
Church Times Bookshop £11.70