Moon Over Soho
I’ve really come to like the recent upsurge in urban fantasy novels that blend the supernatural with police procedural. The two elements mix well and often create a tense and gripping story. Ben Aaronovitch has tapped into this with wonderful results. His second novel, Moon Over Soho, continues the adventures of PI Peter Grant in the streets of a London far different than what you may have seen.
Peter Grant may still be recovering emotionally from the events of a couple of months back, but his partner Leslie is still physically healing from her horrible facial wounds. While she recovers, Grant works with his mentor Nightingale to improve his ability to control magic. But the respite isn’t long, and soon there’s another body to deal with—this one emitting the faint strains of a jazz tune.
Now Grant and Nightingale are caught up in a mystery that may have begun during World War II, a mystery that leaves jazz musicians dead for apparently no reason. And to solve this case, Grant is going to have to turn to someone very close to home: his own dad.
While I mentioned earlier that I like the new breed of urban fantasy/police procedural, this series offers something that isn’t often seen. Grant comes to believe that magic exists and is something that can’t be explained, but he refuses to believe that it can’t be quantified. Therefore, readers are treated to some amusing scenes in which Grant tries to empirically study the spells and effects that he’s learning. As they don’t always go as planned, it adds some humor to the tale.
I was pleased to see the character of Leslie return. Given her fate at the end of the first novel, I wasn’t sure she’d be back. But the author does indeed include her, and he does so in such a way that readers can sympathize with her struggles without starting to pity her. She may not be in this novel as much, but she remains one of my favorite characters.
As for the other major players, Grant and Nightingale, readers get a little more of their backstory revealed through the course of the book. While it isn’t much, it’s enough to whet the appetite and look forward to more in future books.
The plot was more complex than can be conveyed in a brief teaser summary. There are actually two major plotlines running concurrently: the murder of the jazz musicians, and a series of attacks on men that target their genitalia for mutilation. Both are fully rounded plotlines and neither overwhelms the other, although the jazz murders do take center stage for more of the novel. Aaronovitch handles each storyline with tact, never descending into the gruesome simply for the sake of a cheap thrill.
Just as in Midnight Riot, London is brought to vivid life. Without resorting to too much description, the author paints a picture of London that even those who have never been there can visualize. The city itself and its history tend to inform this series’ plots, and it adds a dimension to the stories.
I found myself enjoying this novel just as much as its predecessor, and I look forward to more. Aaronovitch has written a tale full of magic, mystery and humor, set in a city that lives and breathes with its own living history. Peter Grant is a likeable and believable hero who fits perfectly into this setting, and together they produce a novel that can’t fail to entertain.
This review appeared on Owlcat Mountain on April 4, 2011.