Mike Nettleton's Reviews > Midnight Riot

Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch
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's review
Oct 20, 2011

really liked it
Read in October, 2011

My wife and I planning an oft-postponed trip to the U.K. next fall. We’ll probably pass on the major tourist attractions (look, kids, Big Ben, Tower of London), opting instead to visit some of the places we’ve already toured via the books of many of our favorite British, Scottish and Irish mystery authors. From Sherlock Holmes’s dank and foggy moors to the seedy underbelly of the Edinburgh prowled by Inspector Rebus and the lofty haunts of the murderous professors of Morse’s and Lewis’s Oxford, we’ll keep busy while eating our fish and chips from newspaper cones and washing it down with a pint of bitters or a spot of tea.

But when it comes to London, Ben Aaronovitch’s MIDNIGHT RIOT will act as our tour book. His young mixed-race protagonist Peter Grant is on his way to a grim future of pushing paper for the Metropolitan Police when he discovers a heretofore hidden talent. He can see dead people. When Peter goes to the scene of a bizarre murder he encounters a witness who last walked the streets of the city more than a century ago. The clue this deceased busker provides leads to Peter being recruited by the dapper Chief Inspector Nightingale, London’s last living wizard to help investigate a case that defies ordinary logic.

What follows is a wild ride into some forgotten corners of London and the environs, encounters with a vicious killer who disassembles his victims faces and a territorial war between the Gods and Goddesses who are incarnations of the Thames and its tributaries. The supernatural pandemonium comes to a head during a night at the opera that its musicians, patrons and the readers will not soon forget.

Midnight Riot is a bit of a tongue-in-cheek potshot at those who may take the whole spooky-creepy-ghosty-vampirey thing ever-so-gently too seriously. It is, in turn, LOL funny, thought provoking and habit-forming. As you would expect from someone who wrote for DOCTOR WHO, Aaronovitch provides plenty of witty asides and amusing cultural references. I was especially fond of one involving my favorite catch phrase from the crude and wickedly funny BLACK ADDER television series.

While in the London area, I’ll visit St. Paul’s Church (not cathedral), The Royal Opera house, the headwaters of the Thames and many of the other locations Aaronovitch uses as backdrops for Midnight Riot. And with any luck I’ll have another of his books to read back at the hotel.
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