I really enjoyed Rivers of London, the first book in this series, and I had pretty high hopes for Moon over Soho, the second outing of DC Grant. DC Peter Grant does for London Coppers what Dresden did for Chicago Private Investigators. In Rivers of London Grant discovers that he’s got hidden talents of the magical variety, luckily for him, there’s a special division of the London Metropolitan Police that covers that kind of thing. However, it turns out it’s a one man band, so when DC Peter Grant joins he doubles the size of the entire department.
Moon over Soho picks up a short while after the first book and deals with the repercussions of the case DC Grant solved. However, our protagonist doesn’t have to wait long before he’s involved in a new investigation, and the continued development of a case that started in the previous book. I do like the way Ben Aaronovitch ties the books together, these are clearly part of a broader story. However, despite that, and despite the case being quite interesting – I really struggled through the first two thirds of Moon over Soho (well, perhaps 3/5ths).
The case revolves around mysteriously dying Jazz musicians, and as well as having quite a sluggish pace, DC Grant fails early on to spot the massive white elephant in the room. It’s sometimes okay for authors to pretend their protagonists are dumb, and sometimes it’s enjoyable for readers to shout ‘he’s behind you’, but DC Grant isn’t stupid. It felt entirely out of character that he didn’t spot the critically important elements in the investigation, where-as the writing made it entirely obvious to the reader. I’m skirting the subject, because I don’t want to spoil the book too much if you do read it, but essentially within a few moments of meeting a key witness in the case, it was obvious to me what was going on.
Not the fine detail, that gets worked out at the end (more on that in a bit), but certainly the broad brush-strokes of what was happening. I took no pleasure in finding out I was right, and I didn’t enjoy watching Peter stumble around building up a picture of something that should have been crying out at him very early on. Either Ben didn’t realise readers would pick up on it so easily, or he had hoped to introduce some element of feeling worried for Peter. Sadly, I just spent most of the first part of the book being angry. It felt like Aaronovitch was using Peter’s stupidity or blindness as a plot device.
However, I stuck with it, the rest of the case is still engaging, the dialogue and writing is still witty, and in general, there was enough to keep me interested and carry me through to the final third of the book. Which is a pretty good thing, because that’s where Ben hit his stride and the story really gets going. As with the first book there are really 2 or 3 cases going on here at once, and Peter slides between them as required. When the pace begins to accelerate in the later section, we see some characters in a new light, get to experience some truly powerful magical demonstrations and watch DC Grant cause untold mayhem (again).
I like the introduction of real Police behaviour in this book (and the last), and it’s good to see that being blended with the magic, rather than just ignored because it’s inconvenient. Overall Moon over Soho was worth the effort, there’s some character progression, further twists to the overall story arc, and enough laughs, smiles and chuckles to get through the pain.
The book ends as it starts, with Lesley, and a startling revelation. Hopefully the third book will be more consistent, and show more respect for the ability of the main character.