Whispers Under Ground is the third book in the Rivers of London (or DC Peter Grant) series. The book sees familiar characters DC Peter Grant, Nightingale (his boss), Stephanopoulos (his other boss), Seawoll (his other, other boss), and Lesley, who’s face he ruined, work together to solve another mysterious crime in London. This time, there’s been a murder on in the London underground and if DC Peter Grant isn’t careful, he might have to do some real police work.
Ben’s prose is punchy, witty and very easy to read. His insight into both the mind of DC Grant and the workings of various London authorities is entertaining and laugh out loud in places. DC Grant is great, and he feels amazingly real. There isn’t any cliché here or a feeling of made up emotions. Peter is honest, embarrassing, offensive, offended and emotionally stunted in all the right places. His interactions with those around him are a master class in observational writing, and frankly, I could read pages and pages about Peter doing little other than going shopping.
Thankfully, Aaronovitch gives Peter just a little bit more than that to do. As is traditional with urban fantasy there’s a ‘background arc’ and the actual police case to be getting on with. Both are engaging, to some degree, although neither was rivetingly interesting. The murder case is about some people we don’t really know, or get to know much, and the background arc is a little thin on the content.
However, the introduction of a couple of new characters (an FBI agent, and someone from the British Transport Police) give Peter and Leslie some excellent material to work with, and generate a load of excellent banter.
The whole book felt rather gentle, there’s no great surprises, and although there are a few moments of genuine peril, overall it was a much more relaxed investigation than either book one or book two. The magical content is pretty low as well, with the primary focus being on the police procedural aspect and actually pounding the pavement as it were. I didn’t miss the supernatural elements, and there’s still enough to make it fantasy rather than a crime drama, but I do wonder about the overall direction.
The end is rather simple, and delivered pretty much out of the blue. There’s plenty of supporting material, but if you could figure out the detail in advance, then it was too clever for me. It’s not an issue, because without the legwork it wouldn’t have been there, but it’s certainly not the climax to a long and thrilling chase, for example.
In the end, Whispers Under Ground is a book about DC Grant, and along the way he solves a murder with the help of some other interesting people. It’s engaging, witty, and absolutely well worth reading, but it’s not going to bowl you over with suspense.