As the handful of people who read this blog regularly, or who follow me on Goodreads, know I have gotten in the habit of listening to audiobooks and lectures on my daily commute. What I have found is that neither the overly-complex nor the particularly subtle, literary or quiet work well in the car. Relatively straightforward lectures or history can work, provided you are in the mood, or fiction with action, plot and drama work best.
I bring this up because I stumbled on a great series for audio book aficionados. I don’t even remember why I put Rivers of London on my Amazon wish list but when looking for potential audiobooks I decided to see it was available on Overdrive. It turned out it was but under the title Midnight Riot. And it is a great listen.
Probationary constable Peter Grant dreams of being a detective in London’s Metropolitan Police. Too bad his superior plans to assign him to the Case Progression Unit, where the biggest threat he’ll face is a paper cut. But Peter’s prospects change in the aftermath of a puzzling murder, when he gains exclusive information from an eyewitness who happens to be a ghost. Peter’s ability to speak with the lingering dead brings him to the attention of Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale, who investigates crimes involving magic and other manifestations of the uncanny.
Now, as a wave of brutal and bizarre murders engulfs the city, Peter is plunged into a world where gods and goddesses mingle with mortals and a long-dead evil is making a comeback on a rising tide of magic.
This is exactly the type of book that works in the car, at least for me. It has strong characters, a great setting, an interesting hook and engaging language and style.
Peter Grant is a great character and voice. An average, or perhaps slightly above average, guy trying to make it as a (mixed-race) copper in London. He is fascinated by technology, the city, and cars among other things but he is not a particularly adept or perceptive constable. But the magical elements gives him a potential career path.
The style is witty and laidback; a sort of urban fantasy meets police procedural with a good mix of nerdiness (architecture, computers/phones, music, Harry Potter, etc.) mixed in. It has an enthusiasm that is contagious. Which is one of the points of audiobooks in the car; to be entertained while traveling.
The narrator, Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, does a great job with the voices and personalities involved. It was like listening to a radio drama. And along the way you get a great sense of London as both a place and as an identity.
The plot is rather convoluted and not particularly tight or tension filled. But it is the characters and voice of the novel that is the attraction here not the plot.
I found Midnight Riot to be a great combination of fantasy, London as a place and a character, literature, wit and mystery. And I am looking forward to listening to the rest of the Peter Grant series.