I enjoyed Ben Aaronovitch’s début Rivers of London (Rivers of London 1), but found it compared unfavourably to a couple of other similar titles (most notably Christopher Fowler’s Bryant and May series). Moon over Soho, is an assured follow up, that delights throughout. Perhaps Bryant and May finally have a match?
In this instalment, trainee wizard DC Grant is investiating the sudden deaths of several Jazz musicians. They appear to be dying from natural causes, but Grant has reason to suspect otherwise. When another brutal (and rather peculiar) murder takes place in the Groucho Club, Grant is called into determine whether the murder has any supernatural elements. Soon he is looking for two killers, both who use magic, but are they connected?
The reason ‘MoS’ works where ‘RoL’ didn’t, is the subject matter. The folklore elements of ‘RoL’ felt shoe-horned in to fit the story, and reference to them often felt forced. Moon over Soho, draws inspiration from the London Jazz scene, Aaronovitch clearly has a passion for it. It might just be because it’s a subject I know nothing about, and so therefore more easily enthralled by the author’s prose, but I found the storytelling to be seamless. Like its predecessor this is a book that is very easy to read, with some great turns of phrase, and observations. I’m not sure the first-person narrative always works, Grant seems to be too reliable a narrator to me, but this is a very minor quibble.
In ‘Rivers of London’ the magic impinged too much on the real-world. It wasn’t plausible that the rest of London wasn’t in on its existence. Here everything is kept much tighter. The use of magic is more subtle, making for a far more believable and satisfying read. Aaronovitch is clearly more sure of his creation, and Grant’s character develops as he begins to investigate the mechanics behind his powers. The author teases and hints what these might be, but never reveals too much, keeping the reader hanging on for more. Similarly, shadowy forces are abroad in the streets of London, and the novel is left wide open for the soon to be published third instalment. A third instalment I am very much looking forward to reading.