Published 2013 357 pages
Summary (from the book jacket)
A mutilated body in Crawley. Another killer on the loose. The prime suspect is one Robert Weil; an associate of the twisted magician known as the Faceless Man? Or just a common or garden serial killer?
Before PC Peter Grant can get his head round the case a town planner going under a tube train and a stolen grimoire are adding to his case-load.
So far so London.
But then Peter gets word of something very odd happening in Elephant and Castle, on a housing estate designed by a nutter, built by charlatans and inhabited by the truly desperate.
Is there a connection? And if there is, why oh why did it have to be South of the River?
Broken Homes is the fourth book in Ben Aaronovitch’s popular Peter Grant urban fantasy series. The series follows the magical investigations of Police Constable Peter Grant, an apprentice wizard attached to the Folly (the Metropolitan Police’s supernatural department). The Folly is a small department comprising of DCI Nightingale and his two new recruits Peter and Lesley – who are learning how to be wizards as well as police officers. The stories are told in first person narrative by Peter, a London native, whose sharp observations of London life make amusing reading.
In the Peter Grant books London is the star of the show. The author lavishes attention and detail to often overlooked aspects of the city and weaves together a world that is realistically London as well as magical and fantastic. This is a city with warring River gods, tree-dwelling dryads and a lost tribe of underground people inhabiting long forgotten rail and sewage tunnels under the metropolis. In previous books the author has balanced the plotline, characters and the London setting into appealing, fast-paced urban fantasy stories but in Broken Homes the disparate parts of the plot never really manage to integrate themselves into a comprehensive story.
First readers are introduced to a murder in Sussex that may, or may not, be tied to magical activity. Next there is a suicide which may, or may not, be magically motivated. Then a stolen magic book is recovered by the Arts and Antiques squad and the thief turns up very dead – in a definitely magical manner. Then Peter and Lesley go undercover in a tower block in Elephant and Castle. I forget why. Probably because at this point there have been so many potential plotlines that seem to go nowhere added into the mix that it’s hard to remember exactly how the characters ended up undercover in the second half of the book. For me, neither the mystery nor the fantasy elements of this story managed to coherently stick together and the overall pacing of Broken Homes seemed to suffer as a result.
All-in-all Broken Homes was a little disappointing compared to previous series instalments and while it was an entertaining enough read it never really achieved enough momentum to become an unputdownable page-turner. Ultimately the story is fun but instantly forgettable, although if you can remember to keep reading to the end of the book the final 60 pages make it worth your while, as they contain more excitement, danger and major revelations than all the previous 300 pages combined.
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