So finally I get around to reading the second book in this fantastic series. London copper Peter Grant is the country’s only apprentice wizard – apprenticed as he is to Inspector Nightingale and still trying to master some of the basics such as creating light without burning a hole in the table. It’s the aftermath of book 1 (Rivers of London and Lesley’s horrific injury has her confined to the house with no hope of ever seeing it corrected – not even with magic, much to Peter’s frustration.
So while Peter explores his own single-student Hogwarts out in the real world, he soon finds himself with another dead body, one that seems to be emanating the sound of jazz – indicative of magical influence. It’s so powerful that even the muggle coroner can hear it. He died of a heart attack, but was it completely natural causes? Peter thinks so, despite that the authorities keep insisting otherwise. What’s more, the jazz singer is not the only body. Is there a murderer at large with a grudge against jazz singers? Each part of the story adds to the intrigue – the man has no history of magic use, his jilted fiancée, the bit on the side with seemingly no history. What does it all mean? And does the incredibly enticing “bit on the side” have anything to do with it? If so, is Peter’s involvement a danger to him?
As with the first book, the answers are far more complicated than that. It isn’t just fantasy, it isn’t just humour, it isn’t just crime or mystery. This is what you might have got had Neil Gaiman and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle collaborated – oh and maybe got some input from Robert Rankin too.
Aaronovitch has a fantastic way with words – Brightlingsea is a “collection of rubbish stranded at the high water mark”, and a deadpan and irreverent sense of humour in the way he writes: The first paragraph refers to Boudicca as a “chavette” for example. This is what Harry Potter might have been like had he been born and brought up in Del Boy’s Peckham rather than the distinctly middle class Surrey. Lots more pop culture references, fantasy in-jokes all seamlessly blended with good old-fashioned detective drama.
I also felt throughout reading this that there is some sense of a thread building to a wider story. It feels that it goes beyond merely building a universe, but that some of it may be relevant in future (a la Harry Potter – perhaps the in jokes about Hogwarts and Dumbledore are more than homage and more of a hint?) Either way, this is a thoroughly enjoyable read with some great depth, at times irreverent and funny, at times serious cop/mystery drama.