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A mutilated body in Crawley. Another killer on the loose. The prime suspect is one Robert Weil - an associate of the twisted magician known as the Faceless Man? Or just a common garden serial killer?

Before PC Peter Grant can get his head round the case, a town planner going under a tube train and a stolen grimoire are adding to his case-load.

So far so London.

But then Peter gets word of something very odd happening in Elephant and Castle, on an housing estate designed by a nutter, built by charlatans and inhabited by the truly desperate.

Is there a connection?

And if there is, why oh why did it have to be South of the River?

Full of warmth, sly humour and a rich cornucopia of things you never knew about London, Aaronovitch's series has swiftly added Grant's magical London to Rebus' Edinburgh and Morse's Oxford as a destination of choice for those who love their crime with something a little extra.

324 pages, Mass Market Paperback

First published February 4, 2013

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About the author

Ben Aaronovitch

157 books11.5k followers
Ben Aaronovitch's career started with a bang writing for Doctor Who, subsided in the middle and then, as is traditional, a third act resurgence with the bestselling Rivers of London series.

Born and raised in London he says that he'll leave his home when they prise his city out of his cold dead fingers.

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 3,055 reviews
Profile Image for carol..
1,535 reviews7,871 followers
June 20, 2016

If you've read any other Broken Homes reviews or checked out the range of ratings, you'll know that opinion on this book runs the gamut. For me, Aaronovich is starting to feel like he is coming into his own. It's mature, developed writing with rich characters and a thoughtfully developed magic and supernatural system. Without doubt, pacing is a little off from a traditional detective story, but I found that for me, it reflected the inconsistent nature of real-life police work; one does not work a case to the exclusivity of all others, and sometimes the pieces are slow to fit into place. The result is a plot that is a little more "day in the life" until it gestalts together at the end, but was an enjoyable tour on the way. If you want nicely sophisticated characters, sly humor and an insider's view to England, this is an excellent installment in a quality urban fantasy detective series.

The summary: Peter and Leslie are at the Folly, developing their magic skills and researching an Oxford University dining club group that was learning magic a couple of decades ago. Research is interrupted when they're called to an unusual car accident that resulted in one of the driver's deaths. Blood in the back seat leads them to another dead body--strangely missing a face. It sets off vague internal alarms, but with nothing clear to go on, Peter continues on with his mandatory Officer Safety training. As someone who was required to attend annual recertifications every year, I found his asides on the usual dry dust mandatory topics to be snort-worthy:
"The morning lecture was on stop and search with reference to spotting suspicious behavior... he did warn us to make an exception for tourists, because London needed the foreign currency."

There's a sidebar with a River peace summit and a cameo with the Folly cadet, giving more insight into the complicated nature of supernatural politics. At one point in the case, Peter and Leslie go undercover at an estate (project housing), giving a very unique glimpse from a police perspective into the local human denizens.

"I know trouble when it's below the age of criminal responsibility, and while my first instinct was to arrest his parents on general principles, I gave him a cheery wave instead."

I was really enjoying the mischievous, dry wit until about page 200 or so when Aaronvitch started to become quite serious. The wit was still there, but more sly, less frequent, letting the reader focus on the impact of the story. I found it refreshing; although I love a snarky remark, at a certain point, they become incongruent with the emotion of the story.

Honestly, I can't say enough. I love Aaronvich's tone and style. I love that his dogs are dogs, but are still amusing; that Peter is not an anti-hero, and as wry as he is, still believes in loyalty and justice; that Peter doesn't describe all women in terms of sexability, just the one(s) he wants to have sex with; that magic isn't easy; that magic is part of an ambient system living all around us; that Peter is self-depreciating as much as he chaffs others. Add to it that unlike most UF books, the police are not bumbling idiots or obstructive foils, and you have a UF detective read with a very different flavor.

I think it is also worth noting that these books have high re-read potential. Ilona Andrews recently noted "a writer can teach the readers pretty much anything through the narrative, but the lower is that starting threshold, the wider is the audience." Aaronovich doesn't handhold the reader, resulting in a higher threshold. He uses London slang, British police vocabulary, architectural terms and stories that are heavily influenced by local geography. Yet, I feel so satisfied after reading his works. This ending especially was a gobsmacker. I wouldn't call it a cliff-hanger, exactly, since I'm pretty confident in his characterizations and Peter's reflections. I think Aaronovich's tv roots are showing, and it's more of a titillating lead-in to the next installment. There's a reason I've made an effort to get the series in hardcover--I want them around for a long time.


"Arts and Antiques, definitely not known by the rest of the Met as the Arts and Crafts squad, occasionally recover an item so valuable that even the evidence storage locker in the middle of New Scotland Yard isn't secure enough."

"I said she could have a look around the fair as long as she didn't talk to any strange people.
'Okay,' she said.
'Or strange things,' I said.
'Whatever,' she said and skipped off.
'Or strange things that are also people,' I called after her."

"'They're probably waiting for one of us to get freeze dried,' said Lesley, whose attitude towards taser deployment was that people with heart conditions, epilepsy and an aversion to electrocution should not embark upon breaches of the peace in the first place."
Profile Image for Nataliya.
744 reviews11.8k followers
April 8, 2014
"This book is dedicated to all the people who get up and do something about it, whatever “it” is and however small the thing it is they do."
With this perfect dedication, Broken Homes - the fourth entry in Ben Aaronovitch's series about a snarky, geeky and ultimately good London Police Constable Peter Grant, employed in the subdivision of the Metropolitan police focused on magical side of the society - hit the high note from the very beginning and remained very good until the last page.

A few things always stand out for me in Aaronovitch's series and make his books quite special.

First is the very distinct narrative voice of Peter Grant - a bit snarky, a bit smartass, full of endless geeky references and quite a bit of self-deprecating humor, and so captivating that, I swear, I'd read about grocery shopping and plumbing if Peter Grant was narrating it.
"I’d love to stick some high vestigia material into a mass spectrometer, but first I’d have to get myself a mass spectrometer and then I’d have to learn enough physics to interpret the bloody results."
Second is the unbelievably vivid atmosphere of the streets and buildings of architecturally beautiful multicultural London, described so lovingly and fully that even this non-Londoner reader feels that she just took a stroll along the Thames. Speaking of the Thames - I finally decided to search for a map with all the 'lost' rivers of London, mostly tributaries of the Thames that had long ago been converted to underground rivers. And read quite a bit about Heygate Estate which provided inspiration for Skygarden Estate in this book.

Third is the continuing emphasis on keeping these stories as much of police procedural as possible, with constant reminders that keeping the peace comes with the burden of regulations and paperwork and long hours spent gathering evidence and staring at miles of CCTV footage and juggling many different investigative threads that do not always conveniently come together to reveal a bigger picture. Mundane routine is the reality of police life, Aaronovitch emphasizes it, and his characters navigate the system in a way that makes you believe they are actually part of real-life police force.
"It’s a police mantra that all members of the public are guilty of something, but some members of the public are more guilty than others."
Peter Grant books avoid the common pitfall of so many stories that feature anyone with supernatural abilities: the immediate disregard of anyone not magical and resulting complete despising of police force as little but clueless buffoons good for nothing except for throwing obstacles in the way of the heroes. It's not so in Peter Grant series. Police force are the competent people who are perfectly capable of working side by side with their slightly more supernaturally inclined colleagues, even if it means creating just a tad more paperwork than planned.
"So I waited in the porch and wrote up my notes. I have two sets, the ones that go in my Moleskine and the slightly edited ones that go into my official Met issue book. This is very bad procedure, but sanctioned because there are some things the Met doesn’t want to know about officially. In case it might upset them."
These stories also not only feature a wide array of non-white characters (as would be appropriate in a city as multicultural as London), but have quite unique in our literature approach of actually integrating race in the story, casually mentioning race in the description of many white characters, thus subverting the unspoken rule that only non-white characters' race needs to be specified since white is the assumed default. No, here race is just one of the descriptors, applied to white people as well, and that reads very refreshing and common-sense.

The humor of this book deserves a separate shout-out. It's very British (I assume, not being British myself), quite dry, quite intelligent. Combined with the uber-Britishness of this book (again, assumed by me, a non-British reader) it creates a very memorable and very British setting, requiring me - happily - to resort to Google a few times to make sure I understand what's being said and why it's funny.

Broken Homes is very much a middle-of-the story book. The threads started in the previous three - including the greater and greater focus on the villainous Faceless Man - continue here without much hand-holding from the author to remind you where we left off. This book counts on you being quite familiar with the characters and events from the preceding three as it throws you right in the middle of continuing storyline. The flipside of this is that you should not expect all - or even some - of the storylines pursued here to wrap up by the end of this book; no, they will continue into the sequel as by now they all are just little threads of one larger story, leaving you in the meantime with hanging burning questions and no satisfaction of having them answered yet.
"See, I thought as I waited for the lift, someone tries to kill you and suddenly you’re all cautious."
Peter Grant ("I could have used my magical abilities to get a closer look, but instead I used the zoom function on my phone"), Lesley May ("[... ] whose attitude toward taser deployment was that people with heart conditions, epilepsy and an aversion to electrocution should not embark upon breaches of the peace in the first place") and Thomas Nightingale ("Nightingale gave me the same long-suffering look he gives me when I accidentally blow up fire extinguishers, fall asleep while he’s talking, or fail to conjugate my Latin verbs") are pursuing their leads to uncover the identity and the associates of the mysterious and dangerous Faceless Man while solving a few murders, a theft, establishing a connection of a sink estate to all of this and policing a supernatural deity fair - all while trying their best to stay alive and caught up with paperwork.
“That which does not kill us,” I said, “has to get up extra early in the morning if it wants to get us next time.”
It starts with the usual lighthearted humor full of witty banter, but somewhere around the halfway mark the tone becomes more and more serious as Skygarden becomes the primary investigative location, and not only social issues are raised to the surface with apt social commentary (for instance, the struggle of the mostly poor inhabitants of the estate taking up space that could have been used for something infinitely more lucrative) but also the long-standing character tensions come to light, including Lesley's painful struggle to live with her 'ruined' face and the toll it takes on her - sometimes too subtle for Peter to actually see.

And then, like a punch in the gut, the ending comes - unexpectedly and yet not that much, as throughout the book little clues were dropped alerting you that something was amiss, something was different, something was about to crack. And yet, whether you saw it coming or not, the impact remains - both on Peter and the reader, making me immediately go and look up when the next book in the series is due (and resolving to buy it as soon as it comes out, even if I have to pay for the extra shipping from Britain). It's painful and sad and leads to so many questions, and having your heart break for Peter just a bit. 4.5 stars and the countdown to the next book release begins.
"Sometimes, when you turn up on their doorstep, people are already expecting bad news. Parents of missing kids, partners that have heard about the air crash on the news— you can see it in their faces— they’ve braced themselves. And there’s a strange kind of relief, too. The waiting is over, the worst has happened and they know that they will ride it out. Some don’t, of course. Some go mad or fall into depression or just fall apart. But most soldier through.

But sometimes they haven’t got a clue and you arrive on their doorstep like god’s own sledgehammer and smash their life to pieces. You try not to think about it, but you can’t help wondering what it must be like.

Now I knew."

My reviews for the first three books in this series are here: 'Rivers of London' (a.k.a. 'Midnight Riot' in the US), 'Moon Over Soho' and 'Whispers Under Ground'.
Profile Image for Em Lost In Books.
872 reviews1,758 followers
January 11, 2020

Things here went from slow to fast lane very quickly. And damn, that betrayal hurts!!

With so much going on in Peter's life, I will be reading the next book sooner than later.
Profile Image for Victoria Schwab.
Author 27 books103k followers
September 8, 2016
I adore this series. Police procedural with supernatural villains and wizard cops.
Profile Image for carol..
1,535 reviews7,871 followers
June 20, 2016
I loves it so much that this may be the reason I join Audible. Or is there another way for me to owns my precious?

Holdbrook-Smith's narration coupled with Aaronovitch's story is an absolutely splendid combination. Peter Grant has a dry, wry bent, and Holdbrook-Smith is allowing the emotion to come through, even allowing himself to become exclamatory in a couple of parts.

Holdbrook-Smith also has an amazing ability to convey a range of types. He must truly be an actor's actor. He does the genteel tones of Dr. Morehouse awkwardly reading a German title contrasted with Nightingale's smooth description of the same title. His Nightingale is absolutely pat--I hear him and Peter as two different people by now. Zach's indignant hippie vibe continues to amuse. His readings of female lines are just as apt, from the working-class busybody in the Gardens to the weary bemusement of the Nightwitch.

It's worth noting a couple of things. One, re-listening added to my enjoyment and understanding. Pacing was different than a traditional story because it really is more police-procedural. As Peter and the Folly continue to investigate suspicious occurrences, some will matter to the overall arc and some won't. Second, this is amazing and heart-wrenching with more suspense than the last book. This is where the series gets serious. Thankfully, there are still some humorous parts--such as a literal pissing contest. Apparently, as my notes from the first read attest, I'm still amused by many of the same lines.

My review of the story: Broken Homes
Profile Image for Paromjit.
2,602 reviews24.8k followers
November 8, 2016
I have returned to the urban fantasy world of PC Peter Grant based at The Folly, and a wonderful police procedural series set in underground magical London. It has a great sense of location in London and makes the most of the buildings and character of the city. We have the policing of the Spring Court, attended by the major river gods with all the attendant festivities and stalls. There are the undercurrents apparent between Peter and Beverly Brook, a slow heating romance in the making. Lesley is switching between two different face masks after the damage she incurred to her face.

Apparently random events occur which end up with Peter, and his partner Lesley. Robert Weil is involved in a fatal traffic accident. His name sets off bells with Peter and it leads to a woman shot in the face, whose body is discovered in Crawley. Sergeant Jaget Kumar of the British Transport Police draws Peter's attention to the strange apparent suicide of Richard Lewis at an underground station. Lewis was a planner at Southwark Council. Thief and burglar, Patrick Mulkern's corpse is discovered in Bromley, burnt from the inside out. Then there is the odd heart attack that kills the young Richard Dewsbury, a real estate auditor. A stolen German Grimoire leads to Eric Stromberg, the architect of Skygardens, a council estate imbued with industrial magic and the focus of conflict between developers and residents who desire to remain. Peter and Lesley end up living on the estate as they delve deeper into the mysteries there. We encounter a Russian nightwitch, and Nightingale proves his mettle at a battle on a farm. All the incidents turn out to be connected and there is a shocker of a twist in the finale.

This was a great read with a mixed pacing that mirrors the action in the different parts of the novel. Peter is an outstanding and complex character who is determined and full of initiative. He is supported by a brilliant cast of characters, magical and otherwise. Once again, the Faceless Man proves to be a powerful, menacing and challenging adversary to both Peter and Nightingale. I so enjoyed reading this and I recommend this series without reservation.
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 6 books3,967 followers
September 1, 2021
Re-Read 8/31/21:

Still as good the second time through. Lesley is someone special to me. Maybe that's why...

Well, this one is also a hard one to get through. Well worth the re-read, however.

Original Review:

This series seems to be only getting better. The characters are getting more fascinating and the developments are definitely keeping me on the edge of my seat.

London police and a sideline of magic have never felt more realistic. Peter gets to show off a bit of his architectural background this time, too, and I think this aspect was probably my very favorite part of the book.

Architecture has always been a bit magical, don't you think? There's been plenty of literature on the idea and enough evidence to make most people suspect it even if they don't quite admit to believing it. Cathedrals, monuments, and even those atrocities that make everyone wish that they were dead rather than live in them all have a certain charm and flair, no? Good and bad magic. :)

Well, this one brings together a great number of previous elements from the other books and we even get to face the faceless man again, much to my enjoyment. I definitely get the creepy factor off of him and practically everyone here seems to be planning for the very worst.

For good reason, I think.

There are some great explosions and magic scenes, too, but I'll be honest... I come back to it for the in-between parts. It's a real pleasure to be in these people's lives and experience what they experience.

No spoilers, but this one is a real treat. :)
Profile Image for Philip.
500 reviews673 followers
February 26, 2017
3.5ish stars.

In some ways this is the most satisfying yet, in others it's the most frustrating. As is typical for the series, the plot is... meandering. More here than in previous books even, despite it's return to what seems to be the overarching plot line connecting the books. And I feel like that's just true to its police procedural reality- I imagine actual police officers are engaging in various types of business and following multiple leads at any given time- it's just a little manic and incohesive for my personal liking.

Nevertheless, all the things that make this series great are here in spades: a magical London setting (including the "skygarden," home of nymphs, based on actual London eyesore/mugger's paradise, "Heygate Estate") Aaronovitch's trademark brand of humour, and some of the best characters being written in fantasy fiction today. The gang's all here, too. Lesley is back in action, the Faceless Man finally shows his face again (so to speak), and fan favorites Zachery Palmer, Abigail and Toby the dog all feature here in addition to those famous Rivers of London .

As always, Kobna Holdbrook-Smith does fantastic work as the audiobook voice actor. Now about that ending...
Profile Image for William Gwynne.
355 reviews1,466 followers
July 22, 2022
I now have a YouTube channel that I run with my brother, called 'The Brothers Gwynne'. Check it out - The Brothers Gwynne

Broken Homes follows the same template as the previous three stories in this series. So, it is interesting, funny and engaging, with a new crime story and thread with the same characters.

Broken Homes had another cleverly constructed case that allowed growth and development of character. But, whilst I think that momentum dropped a bit in the middle, so it was a bit flat for a while, that ending! What a twist. Best ending to the series so far in my opinion.

As this is the fourth instalment in the series. there is not much I can say without spoilers, so I will keep this short. The central characters are being explored more and more, with Peter Grant still acting as a very good perspective to view the world from. But the plot was weaker in my opinion, which meant that character development, the introducing of new figures, and the tension was just lacking, until the last phase of the story.

Despite some of these aspects that diminished my enjoyment at times, it was a really great ending, and still an enjoyable read. So, I will be continuing with this series, but I do not know when.

3.25/5 STARS
Profile Image for Emily B.
426 reviews421 followers
August 26, 2021
Another great instalment in the Peter Grant series with a good twist. I particularly enjoyed the humour in this one and found myself smiling while listening. Also the narrator of the audiobooks is pretty perfect.
Profile Image for Lyn.
1,867 reviews16.5k followers
February 12, 2018
A change of pace keeps this series ROLLING!

Aaronovitch’s 2013 entry into his FREAKING AWESOME! contemporary fantasy series set in London and involving paranormal shenanigans has MORE! magic and world building and MORE! FREAKING AWESOME! characters and magic rues.

Up to now I’ve complimented Aaronovitch for his police procedurals that included some MAGIC! and PARANORMAL! elements. This time around, we delve much more deeply into the MAGIC! world building that Aaronovitch has set up for us.

Peter and Lesley are tracking down some MYSTERIOUS! murders involving MAGIC! and so the Folly crew is activated. Along the way we spend some more time with the RIVER GODS AND GODDESSES! as well as a GOBLIN! and some kind of TREE NYMPH! or DRYAD! and Peter and Lesley continue to work their way up to higher level spells. I especially like the way Aaronovitch was clearly influenced and inspired by DUNGEONS & DRAGONS! for much his magic rules.

The last quarter of the book was finished in a SPRINT OF FRENETIC READING! as we learn more about THE FACELESS MAN! and his MORIARTY! like nefarious schemes. I finished absolutely powerless and unable to PUT THE BOOK DOWN!!

If this series were tobacco I’d be a chain smoker; if it were alcohol I’d be a messy drunk. I’m hooked and having the BEST! time reading all these.


Profile Image for Lois Bujold.
Author 183 books37.7k followers
August 13, 2013

Well, this was a delightful part of a story...

Ends on one or more cliffhangers, rather more so than a couple of the prior episodes. Aaronovitch had better be careful in traffic for the next year, just sayin'. And no smoking. Take small bites and chew carefully, etc.

That said, it gave me a lot of the things I wanted, namely, more Peter Grant, more London, and more of the other residents of the Folly. The love of the city fascinates me as a perversion in its in its own right, since personally I think the right distance between me and the nearest neighbor is about half a mile. There is never enough Nightingale, though the bits we got were primo. Nevertheless, there is a fine art in not giving away too much when building awesome, which is part of why I never used Aral Vorkosigan's viewpoint in my own series. I'm torn, here.

Highly recommended, but don't start here; this is very much a sequential series. Begin with Book 1, Rivers of London, published in the USA under the camouflage title of Midnight Riot.

My review of the first volume is here: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/... so I shan't repeat myself.

Ta, L.
Profile Image for Reni.
304 reviews33 followers
November 10, 2014
I would have loved to finally give one of these books a perfect score, because I love the series for its world-building and characters, but, man, this book has pacing problems.

For the first 200 pages or so, it feels like nothing of true interest actually happens in this book. Oh, don’t get me wrong, a lot of stuff does happen, from bloody murders, advancement of the overarching ��Faceless Man” plotline, to subtle and sometimes not so subtle character development. And the Festival of the River Gods was simply fun. Pissing contests and all. Yet, all these plot threads are so disconnected from each other that it is hard to get properly invested into them.

As thrilling as mutilated bodies might sound in the summary on the back cover, the investigation of these murders didn’t hold nearly as much excitement as the cover blurb promised. There was almost never, at least until the last third, any sense of true mystery about the murders, nor, as a possible means for balance, any sense of danger to our main characters.

Parts of the book read too much like a string of sort of interesting -- but not interesting enough -- only vaguely connected events. Of course, the reader knows that in the end everything will come together, but the reader simply doesn’t care for a very long time. The mysteries are too vague to be engaging. Let’s take the idea of magical architecture. Intriguing, right? But we never get enough details about how people might make use of that idea for the mystery about the stolen books to be actually engaging.

It’s like there is too much going in this book, but at the same time too little.

We have at least 3 murders in this book, but still enough time to read in detail about what Peter eats while analysing endless CCTV footage. I usually like how this series makes a point of taking police procedure a bit more seriously and to represent it more realistically than your average prime-time TV crime show, but this was too much!

However, the last 100 pages or so were brilliant (we even got two very cool showdowns! Man, I’ve been wanting to read a proper wizard duel in this series for so long, I was basically squealing with delight when the big fight between the Night Witch and Nightingale happened. Let’s hope his next duel won’t be his last and that we can enjoy heavy magical property damage of the kind for a very long time still in this series). These pages delivered the kind of suspenseful, funny police drama/fantasy fest I had been expecting from the start. If only the whole book could have been written like this!

As soon as Peter moves into the flat in Skygarden we finally have something like a linear narrative that manages to build up tension, what with us finally learning what our heroes mean to do, while slowly the objectives of our villains become more transparent also. I wish at least one of these things had been more prominent in the first 200-and-something pages to give some form to the narrative.

I am not sure yet what I think of the big twist ending.

In the end the book raised more new questions, in addition to all the questions from the first books that weren’t answered either.

It’s strange: I can hardly wait for the next book, yet, at the same time I am apprehensive about what developments, death & destruction, the next instalment might bring. As I’ve said in my reviews for the other books: It’s the characters who really carry this series for me, so I hope we won’t see any of the main characters killed off yet. Despite whatever else the author might have planned for them.

Btw., while I’m at it: The editing of this edition could have been better also. I spotted a couple of typos, mixed up, or sometimes even missing prepositions.
Profile Image for Paul.
2,307 reviews20 followers
June 29, 2017

Aaronovitch, you complete sod! You can't do that to me! I did NOT see that ending coming! AT ALL! Amazing...

Man, I'm more emotionally invested in this series than I thought I was...
Profile Image for Stephan .
32 reviews40 followers
March 23, 2017
Oh YES! Smack - dead in the center! There's nothing wrong with four stars, but this, my friends, is a full hand, all 5 of them: ★★★★★

You know when you pay the extra quid for quality because you know this is the time and place where it matters and makes a difference? Then you get what you bought, hold it in your hands and it feels really good, solid, valuable and all that. To me, that's a wonderful four star. Add a pinch of "Bloody hell!", "WTF?" or "Strike!" and little ol' fifth star comes running up, yapping and wagging its tail.

So here we are, Peter learning more spells, policing all over the place (there's some real going undercover here) and following leads to murders all over the place - not in a monster/case of the week kind of way, instead the thick plottens (had to put that in here somehow *grin*). I've never liked series where each installment is a thing in its self, a standalone. I like a continueing plot that develops, more than just a grand scheme. Meandering is totally fine, especially if the curvy bits are as delicious as Aaronovitch manages to serve them. His mix of spices makes a very well balanced dish. In Broken Homes there is some Sierra Leonean hot chilli in form of serious magic badassery, Himalayan rock salt adding quality flavour with London history and lovely details, some hints of sugar for delicacy and delicateness and some indeterminable herbs that - yes really - somehow end up in an actual weeing contest. I had a strong feeling of things coming together, fitting in, belonging.

It's still witty and humourous, but it got more serious too, in the second part. And there's a big surprise as well. So far, this is my favorite of the series. Foxglove Summer, here I come!
365 reviews37 followers
January 29, 2021
This was the first book I read in 2021 and the events of that first week more or less took the pleasure out of reading it, but before more time passes I feel I should rate it and say something about it. I'm giving it four stars because in normal circumstances I'm sure I would really have enjoyed reading it.

It's typical of the Rivers of London series in that it reads mainly like a good police procedural with a few extra touches. The first-person narrator is Peter Grant, a London police constable, and we're always firmly anchored to his point of view. His own boss is still a mystery to him in some ways--in this book, for example, he entertains the possibility that his boss's last name Nightingale is really a code name from World War II.

Nightingale, Peter, and Peter's partner and best friend Lesley constitute a three-person special department of the London Metropolitan Police. Officially they specialize in "unusual" cases; only a few others in the Met know that they deal with cases involving magic. Nightingale is a wizard, and apart from some rogue wizards he's the only legitimate one left in England after a terrible event during World War II that Peter wishes he understood--but Nightingale is very close-mouthed when he wants to be.

Anyway, Peter and Lesley are apprentice wizards who spend most of their free time on difficult magical exercises under Nightingale's strict direction. Peter says at one point
Using magic has a very specific limitation. If you overdo it your brain turns into Swiss cheese. Hyperthaumaturgical degradation, Dr. Walid calls it, and he has some brains in a drawer which he whips out at the slightest excuse to show young apprentices.
Dr. Walid is the medical examiner who looks at "unusual" corpses for the vestigia that the use of magic leaves behind--on bodies, on objects, and in places. Magic in Peter's world is something that Sir Isaac Newton invented (or systematized), and Nightingale works with Newton's secret treatise, written in Latin--which is why all the magic words are Latin. Peter explains
You do magic by learning formae which are like shapes in your mind that have an effect on the physical universe. As you learn each one you associate it with a word, in Latin...You make it so that the word and the forma become one in your mind.
This time around the three-person team is working more effectively than ever, and we see a bit more of Nightingale in person as they tackle a set of cases that leads them into direct contact at last with the Faceless Man, a mysterious and evil magic-wielder who's been in the background till now. The action gravitates toward a public housing project (an estate in British terms) that includes a remarkable high rise and brings up the fascinating issue of magic embedded in architecture.

Before we get to the harrowing climax and a stunning ending that changes the game for the whole series, we meet the God and Goddess of the Thames River again, along with the spirits (godlings maybe?) of several of its tributaries and a delightful tree spirit who inhabits the estate; and as usual Peter is caught up in negotiations over their jurisdiction! The focus on the housing estate, though, means that there are fewer descriptions of old neighborhoods to enjoy in Peter's narration; even so, his love of London and its history comes through very convincingly.

Recommended, and indispensable if you intend to read on in the series.
Profile Image for Penny.
172 reviews345 followers
August 10, 2013
This series gets better with every new book! I was practically hyperventilating for the last 30 or so pages of this story and it took a good 10 minutes to catch my breath after hitting The End. Ben Aaronovitch doesn't pull his punches. He's become one of my favourite authors with this series.

The pace is quick, the dialogue is entertaining and full of witty banter, the characters are deep complicated people who you can't help but fall in love with, Peter's scientific studies into the nature of magic are progressing nicely and infused with an appropriate amount of what I think of as "Peter-quirk", some of my new favourite characters from the last book made an appearance in this one, and as always there was lots of excitement and no shortage of Peter and co getting themselves into all kinds of trouble.

I'm bleak that I finished this so quickly because it means I have to wait that much longer before I get my next Peter Grant fix! So good!! :)
Profile Image for Daniel.
692 reviews46 followers
December 21, 2018
Attention authors: do not try this at home. The "plot" in this book is a trainwreck. Not in the sense that the villain's scheme is bad or uninteresting, it's pretty cool actually. But the way the story is sliced up and presented to the reader is not, imnsho, great. But you gave it 4 stars! I hear you saying. Yeah, well, that's becauze Aaronovitch does everything else so good in this one he can get away with it. You are not that good. Don't try me. I will dnf your ass so fast the friction burns will scar your soul.

Also I'm pretty pissed about him finally dropping the whole now. I mean I expected it after book two, but then he took two more books to lure me into a false sense of security. Bastard.
Profile Image for Phrynne.
3,222 reviews2,052 followers
April 26, 2016
This series just keeps getting better and better! I am listening to it on audio and the reader is really, really good. His range of accents is perfect right through from our London copper to upper class Nightingale, Oberon, a Russian witch and many more. Broken Homes is definitely a middle book in a series and one which should be read in the correct order as the author provides very little back story to help a new reader. Each book leads into the next one and this one does it in such style that I will be purchasing the next one later today. I just have to find out what a certain character does next! Highly recommended but start with book 1
Profile Image for Ken.
2,164 reviews1,322 followers
October 18, 2018
Another wonderful entry in the Rivers of London series, it’s so easily to slip into this world.
Aaronovitch’s descriptive writing is a joy, I love the way he describes things including the supermarket in Brighton being the size of a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.
I know this Asda well, so it made me chuckle!

Both the characters and the locations are perfect, you really feel as if your in these places with Peter Grant and the team.

This entry really pushes the story along, the final few chapters were gripping and I can’t wait to see where the story goes from here.
Profile Image for Algernon (Darth Anyan).
1,494 reviews962 followers
August 22, 2013

I don't read much contemporary urban supernatural fiction, I prefer classic fantasy and big epics set on secondary worlds. But over the last four books I've grown quite fond of Police Constable Peter Grant (I think that's what PC stands for, other than personal computer). The supporting staff is all right (Lesley, Nightingale, Molly, the dog, the doctor, etc) but a good series that wants to go the distance of 10 books or more needs a strong, interesting protagonist, somebody the reader can identify with. The apeal of Peter for me resides mostly in the fact that he is not an uber-powerful magician or an unbeatable martial artist. He's a regular guy, learning the rules of magic in a slow and often painful way, by constant practice and more errors than successes. Of course he scores very high on his geek scientist credentials (I'm a big fan of the geek TV show Big Bang Theory) which, coupled with his passion for arhitecture, jazz and social commentary made his narration of events often more entertaining than the actual criminal investigations he is engaged in.

Speaking of which: Broken Homes is about finding the connection between several apparently unrelated murders, all done using a magical attack of sorts : the corpse of a woman with her face blown off dumped in forest by a country road, the suspicious suicide of a public servant in a London underground station, the improbable heart attack of a real estate auditor, the body of a former crook burned from the inside out. The last one bears the signature mark of Peter's arch enemy - The Faceless Man - a powerful rogue wizard, and I appreciated the choice of the author to focus on the main storyline after the third book in the series, which felt more like a filler, like a side quest.

Once again, the city of London comes off the pages in all its arhitectural and multicultural glory, with Peter as its most enthusiatic troubadour. A rather hideous and derelict high rise tower from the impractical 1960's plays a central part in the story, together with its down on their luck current inhabitants. I would have lliked to see the River deities introduced at the start of the series play a more central role in the plot development here. They have a very good scene where they all gather for a Spring festival on the South Bank of Thames, but the episode felt like a distraction from the main plot. Luckily for me, the magical creatures were better linked to the plot through a new character introduced here : a hamadryad linked to some old trees on the estate I mentioned earlier.

To continue with the positive aspects of this fourth book (not that I have anything to complain about), I particularly liked three things:
- the introduction of German and Russian magical practicioners, expanding the alternate histories and secret organizations beyond the Folly and the English culture;
- the big scene of Thomas Nightingale unleashing his magic-fu. I was reminded of the last Star Wars movie when the wise and imperturbable Yoda finally gets to show what a major kick-ass he really is;
- a toning down of the goofing around, sarcastic remarks and general levity of Peter. Things are really getting serious with the Faceless Man, and I found the changes to a darker style appropriate.

Last one I will put in
Profile Image for NAT.orious reads ☾.
848 reviews339 followers
December 25, 2020
This book is for you if… you haven’t had the problems I always had with this series.

Ever since I started this series, one curious thing keeps happening to me: I pick up the next book in line and after about 30 pages or so I'm always wondering why it took me so long to continue Rivers of London. And it happened again.

I think I'll put this series on hold for a while (which is probably what I thought after the first three books as well). I love Ben's writing, the many witty lines and the general idea of the Rivers of London series. However, I always feel like I'm reading his books through a veil that leaves certain parts of the stories and the investigations in particular opaque. I'm lost after the first third every single time. It appears as if in this instalment especially, the plot is all over the place. It only spurred my overall confusion. Maybe I'm just not smart enough.

Since I've not only got bad things to say, I'd love to underline how precious Ben's characters are to me. He has an impeccable gift fleshing out and detailing his characters with just the right mixture of gritty dialogue and narration. My favourite is probably Toby, the dog. I believe he's officially something perpetually excited such as a fox terrier but I keep picturing a bulldog.

Still, at the moment I don't feel like investing more time in the series (again). I'd love to see the book(s) turned into a movie or a show though.

What’s happening.
‘That which does not kill us,’ I said, ‘has to get up extra early in the morning if it wants to get us next time.’

spoiler alert : 'That' is getting more sophisticated with every supernatural case Peter, Lesley, Toby and Nightingale take on.
3 STARS. Decent read that I have neither strongly positive nor negative feelings about. Some things irked me and thus it does not qualify as exceptional.
Profile Image for B Schrodinger.
305 reviews659 followers
October 5, 2014
So it seems that the Peter Grant series is suffering from what I am calling "Reverse-Star-Trek-Movie-itis" or that the truly good books in this series are the odd numbered. I know there is only four, but I'm calling it. So while I look forward to book 5 coming soon, not so much book 6.

Look I know I am being critical here, this is still a fun novel to read, but it's no 'Rivers of London' or 'Whispers Underground' in that there is no one overarching chain of events from initial mystery to wonderful conclusion. Here, like book 2, we get ambling about and random encounters that seem to be drawn together haphazardly in the last few pages. There's some funny situations and some cool characters and scenes, but nothing that makes you go 'wow!'.

The only theory I can draw upon as to why this is the case is that book 2 and 4 are concerned with a larger story that runs through the books. I know these are somewhat serial in nature, but for those who have read book 2, you know who is back and that story line takes centre stage.

I much prefer the more tightly focused Books 1 and 3 of the series. Still, fans will enjoy it and find it entertaining. And I do still look forward to the next in the series.
Profile Image for Michelle F.
232 reviews68 followers
March 9, 2020
Another fun entry in a series that has been consistently entertaining, though not uniformly satisfying.

Broken Homes is the fourth volume in the Rivers of London story arc, and it does turn its focus solidly onto the overlaying “big picture,” which concerns the personified bodies of water and the dastardly Faceless Man. While I highly enjoyed it, I wasn't quite as drawn in as I was in Whispers Underground. The plot felt a bit meandering at times, maybe?

Aaronovitch seems to have refined his use of humour and it is kind of refreshing, though not quite as uproarious. The pop-culture references seem to be a bit toned down and integrated... another mixed blessing: I love all the nerdy head-nods, but the main story gets more attention when the gimmicks are used as tools instead of highlights. The more mature part of my reading brain appreciates this.

Although not fully surprised by the nutty developments at the end, I am incredibly curious to see where its all going to go!
Profile Image for Mimi.
694 reviews191 followers
January 5, 2021
Just pre-ordered the next book (Foxglove Summer), 3 months in advance. No book series has ever motivated me to do that before.

First off, that revelation at the end just as everything was falling to pieces, that was perfect timing. So perfect it left me a little winded tbqh. Well done, Mr. Aaronovitch. You've successfully made me jump out of my seat while waiting at the DMV. That's no easy feat because it was the DMV, the whole place was packed, and I was standing.

This isn’t a review so much as just me using this space as a concept board. So onward with it already?

“Perfectly human monsters, everyone of them.”

This was Nightingale to Peter when asked whether or not serial killers were of the magical persuasion. This line alone sums up the foundation of the book.

Strange things are still happening in and around London, although this time they’re stranger than the usual disturbances. The plot sort of picks up where the previous book left off, and familiar characters make brief appearances to help Peter and Lesley as they unravel a mystery that doesn’t look all that mysterious on the surface. We see the young and curious Abigail again, this time for extended periods of the plot. Sergeant Kumar of the underground turns up to hand over a crucial piece of the puzzle. The mysterious Zach also drops by to hang out with Peter and Lesley. Beverly Brook, whom I thought had been forgotten, and her River sisters make some appearances only to disappear again.

There’s a good amount of self-deprecating humor and outright hilarious moments in this book, but all of it take a back seat to the perfect timing ending mentioned above. It’s not quite a cliffhanger, though it does leave a lot up in the air.

Unlike the previous three, I thought the title for this book lacked a sense of poetic mystery. Rivers of London, Moon Over Soho, Whispers Under Ground–oddly lyrical titles for urban fantasy mysteries, wouldn’t you say? And Foxglove Summer? Sounds sweet, if a bit twee. Even Midnight Riot (the US title for Rivers of London) promises mystery and an adventure. Broken Homes, in contrast, seems sad and straight-forward. Out of character compared to the rest of the series, and then that ending busted out of the rubble and now everything makes sense. I didn’t realize how well the title tied everything together until that very moment. And what an explosive ending that was. I’m still brooding over it.

It wouldn’t be an Aaronovitch book without quotable moments. Here are some of my favorites:

Door bells are mysterious things

We heard a distant ringing noise that confused everyone until we recognised the Folly’s front door bell. We all exchanged looks until it was established that since I wasn’t intrinsically supernatural, a chief inspector or required to put on a mask before meeting the public I was nominated door opener in chief.

Peter Grant’s deep-seeded cop-ness showing through

It’s a police mantra that all members of the public are guilty of something, but some members of the public are more guilty than others.


I know trouble when it’s below the age of criminal responsibility, and while my first instinct was to arrest his parents on general principles, I gave him a cheery wave instead. He gave me a blankly suspicious look before whipping his head out of sight.


Everyone consents to the police. It’s just the operational priorities they argue about.


“That which does not kill us,” I said, “has to get up extra early in the morning if it wants to get us next time.”


He must have carefully calculated it against his own weight, but with mine added he feel dangerously fast. I made sure that I was the one right him down–thinking heavy thoughts.

Nightingale, contrary to popular beliefs, does have an exasperation point

“I don’t think he takes me as seriously as he should,” Nightingale told Dr. Walid. “He still slopes off to conduct illicit experiments whenever he thinks I’m not looking.” He looked at me. “What is your latest interest?”

“I’ve been looking at how long various materials retain vestigia,” I said.

“How do you measure the intensity of the vestigia?” asked Dr. Walid.

“He uses the dog,” said Nightingale.

Lesley scores some points in her favor

“They’re probably waiting for one of us to get freeze dried,” said Lesley, whose attitude towards taser deployment was that people with heart conditions, epilepsy and an aversion to electrocution should not embark upon breaches of the peace in the first place.

The infallible Zach of mysterious origins confirming what we’ve all suspected at one time or another

“My granddad said he was bonkers,” said Zach.

“Sherlock Holmes?” asked Lesley.

“Arthur Conan Doyle,” said Zach.

The strip vanished under the door of a garage sealed with a County Gard steel plate and another shiny padlock.

“You want to get this?” I asked Zach.

Zach pulled a pick from his jeans pocket and went to work. “Started seeing fairies and ghosts and talking to dead people,” he said still going on about Conan Doyle as the padlock came apart in his hands.

“But there are fairies and ghosts,” said Lesley. “I met them down the pub–you introduced me.”

“Yeah, but he used to see them when they weren’t there.” said Zach. “Which is practically the definition of bonkers.”

* * * * spoilers below * * * *

* * * * *

Many thanks to Will Martin of the Penguin Group for sending me a copy to enjoy.

* * * * *

REREAD: December 2020

Wow. This review is long--might be the longest I'd ever written--and those spoilers/notes are quite useful now as I had mostly forgotten what this installment was about, saved for the plot and culprit. Oh, yes, and that little bit at the end where everything came crashing down. I should really get back to writing these cheat-sheet style reviews again. Future-me would appreciate it very much.

So, yeah, this was a fun reread via audiobook and I enjoyed it, maybe a little bit more than the first read because I was ready this time and so the ending couldn't jump out and knock me sideways like it did the first time.

* * * * *

Cross-posted at http://covers2covers.wordpress.com/20...
Profile Image for Wanda Pedersen.
1,861 reviews369 followers
July 19, 2021
2021 Re-Read

***2021 Dog Days of Summer***

It's time for my summer theme and this year I have chosen to read books that include canine companions. In that spirit, I'm continuing on with Peter Grant and his faithful canine, Toby, who is integral to the action in this volume. Toby becomes important cover for Peter and Lesley as they move into Sky Gardens to see if they can figure out what the Faceless Man is up to.

This, although a significant step in the story arc, is probably my least favourite. I know the ending makes sense but I don't have to like it. Despite my reservations, I'm still enjoying this summer rereading spree.

Original Review

This installment meanders a bit, as it juggles multiple story lines, plus lessons in architecture. Thomas "Oh was that your Tiger tank?" Nightingale gets to show why he's the teacher and Peter & Lesley are the apprentices. I particularly enjoyed Toby's increased role in this book, being Peter's magic detector (the yap-o-metre) and camouflage (a man with a dog is virtually invisible, apparently).

Peter has matured since the first book. Lesley gives him a hard time, needling him about why he and Beverly Brook aren't sleeping together yet. In the first couple of books, Peter would have jumped in first and thought things through later, but he has learned to think with his big head and is suitably cautious. After all, if your relationship with a goddess goes pear-shaped, you know who is going to suffer most (and it won't be Beverly).

I'm still enjoying the effortless multicultural and inclusive cast of characters, however don't imagine that I have no criticism! I'm not wild about the Faceless Man as an antagonist (although I did enjoy Peter's reference to his lab as the Strip Club of Dr. Moreau). But, having read to the end of this volume, how can I doubt that I will read the next to see the next event in the drama?
Profile Image for Andy.
420 reviews67 followers
January 14, 2016
Back for more Peter Grant & the gang at the Folly!

Oh dear......... 2.5 stars & the 1/2pt is only cause I’ve really enjoyed the series too date.

Well what went wrong here then...... it jus lacked the humour & action (In bucket fulls) of the previous reads in the series, I found myself nodding off as it was mostly Jus Peter Grant & well, council housing of Greater London...... what! Bored for the most part. It lacked the characters that we've grown to love & at 200+ pages had gone absolutely nowhere for me.

If this was the first book in the series, I would be now binning it, sorry, its been grand up until now but I tell it as I see it & this was bland central for the most part with a few redemptions here & there.

Addendum : Jus reading through friends reviews...... what book were you all reading?? :D
Profile Image for Cynnamon.
547 reviews99 followers
July 7, 2019
Peter Grant and the Nightingale are still chasing the faceless man.

In this volume the story evolves around a social housing estate, we meet a dryad and Peter tries to figure out the motives of the estate's architect.

In the very end Peter and the reader face quite an ugly surprise, which makes us wonder how this particular stoy line will continue.

This is a series which I find really worthwile reading. Looking forward to the next volume.
Profile Image for Orient.
255 reviews209 followers
August 19, 2016
I adored how Peter told the story about London life, it was an amusing read. Mr. Aaronovitch used a great way to attract attention to the world of London, so magical, fantastic and realistic at the same time. Also I loved the idea of magic mixing with architecture. I’m not an architecture expert but the architectural details were very believable and impressive mixed up with the magic stuff. At last I got some fun stuff to read about the bad-ass-witcher aka Nightingale.

His wild meeting with the Crazy Night Witch was enjoyable to read. Maybe Molly will have her fun playtime in the next book? Also I loved Lesley’s character. I hope she’ll be ok!

Sometimes I had to make pit stops to return some pages back just to find why smth happened ‘cause I forgot why. Maybe it was because there were so much different storylines that seem to go nowhere. That’s the reason why the story didn’t grip me fully for the biggest part of the book, but the last third of the book was so fast paced and entertaining that it was a really tasty and spicy dessert, so worth waiting.
To sum up “Broken Homes” is not a disappointing read, it was entertaining and the ending achieved enough momentum to turn in a fast pace page turner.
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