Moon Over Soho
Published 2011 375 pages
Summary (from the book jacket)
My name is Peter Grant, and I’m a Detective Constable in that mighty army for justice known as the Metropolitan Police (a.k.a. the Filth). I’m a trainee wizard, the first such apprentice in fifty years. Officially I belong of ESC9, Economic and Specialist Crime Unit 9, otherwise known as ‘The Folly’, also known as the unit that nice, well-brought up coppers don’t talk about in polite company.
When I was a kid, I was in charge of changing my dad’s records while he lounged around drinking tea – that’s how I know my Argo from my Tempo. And that’s why, when Dr Walid called me down to the morgue to listen to a corpse, I recognised the tune as ‘Body and Soul’ – something violently supernatural had happened to the victim, strong enough to leave its imprint on his corpse as if it were a wax cylinder recording. The former owner of the body, Cyrus Wilkinson, was a part-time jazz saxophonist and full-time accountant who had dropped dead of a heart attack just after finishing a gig.
He wasn’t the first, but no one was going to let me exhume corpses to see if they were playing my tune, so it was back to old-fashioned police legwork, starting in Soho, the heart of the scene, with the lovely Simone – Cyrus’ ex-lover, professional jazz kitten and as inviting as a Rubens portrait – as my guide. And it didn’t take me long to realise there were monsters stalking Soho, creatures feeding off that special gift that separates the great musicians from someone who can raise a decent tune. What they take is beauty. What they leave behind is sickness, failure and broken lives. And as I hunted them, my investigation got tangled up in another story: a brilliant trumpet player, Richard ‘Lord’ Grant – my father – who managed to destroy his own career. Twice.
That’s the thing about policing: most of the time you’re doing it to maintain public order. Occasionally you’re doing it for justice. And maybe, once in a career, you’re doing it for revenge.
Moon Over Soho is the follow up novel to Ben Aaronovitch’s bestselling urban fantasy novel Rivers of London (US title: Midnight Riot). If you haven’t yet read Rivers of London I’d recommend reading doing so before starting Moon Over Soho because character relationships and plotlines are first established in the earlier book.
Rivers of London introduced readers to a magical London where ghosts, vampires and warring river gods are policed by a tiny division of the Metropolitan Police – consisting of DCI Nightingale (Britain’s last wizard) and his new apprentice Peter Grant, a young PC just out of training who is discovered to have rare magical ability. The story was narrated in first person by Peter – whose humorous, yet razor-sharp observations regarding the nature of London, its inhabitants and its police force provided an entertaining insight into an alternative fantasy London. Moon Over Soho is essentially more of the same, except in this story Peter is working on his own – since both his boss and his helpful sidekick PC Lesley May are on sick leave recovering from injuries sustained in a previous encounter with a dangerous ghost.
Peter’s latest investigation regards a dead jazz musician. Further enquiries show that this is just the latest dead jazzman in a long line of dead musicians. Left to his own devices Peter comes to the conclusion that he is looking for a “jazz vampire” – a being that literally sucks the life (and magic) out of jazz musicians. At the same time it is revealed that a black magician or “ethically challenged magical practitioner” is operating in the Soho area – which is more alarming since magic is generally thought to be in decline and there aren’t supposed to be any new wizards.
Moon Over Soho is good combination of mystery, police investigation and the supernatural wrapped up in some great writing. The Peter’s narration gives the story a lightly humorous yet completely credible voice. The descriptions of the magic and supernatural elements of the story are perhaps more subtle than the usual flashy magic on offer in most urban fantasy novels today but this is perhaps a reflection of the novel’s uniquely British style and identity.
Above all Moon Over Soho is highly readable and hugely enjoyable. Definitely a book not to miss!
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