Michael's Reviews > Midnight Riot

Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch
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bookshelves: fiction, fantasy, mystery, london

I was suitably charmed but not wowed by this urban fantasy set in London. Yet the young hero, Constable Peter Grant captured my affection and respect and I believe from what I hear that the series gets better.

Rather than the flash and pizzazz shown by wizard Harry Dresden waging desperate war against legions of bizarre magical creatures in Butcher’s series, this tale thrives mostly on conventional police procedural efforts that home in on a single powerful ghost. By contrast, I found it easier to identify with Grant’s quiet brilliance and social awkwardness. At the end of his probationary period, he seems headed for a desk job. Yet after a strange murder involving a beheading, his ability to take in stride the appearance of a ghost near the scene of the crime and have the chutzpah to interview him as a witness reveals special talents recognized by an old detective, Inspector Thomas Nightingale. He takes him on as an apprentice in his one-man department responsible form handling cases with a supernatural element (a joke is made over it not having the label of “Ministry of Magic”).

The magical aspects are restrained. Grant slowly learns from his mentor how to make a light and to pull off limited levels of telekinesis, which he has a cool enough head to apply when caught in the middle of a dangerous and violent situation later in the story. His skill lies in imaginative problem solving, which combines intuition with a playful application of scientific thinking. London comes alive in the plot, as the mayhem wrought by the enemy leads to the pursuit of clues and disaster responses all over the city. Grant is lonely and subject to serious desires for his former partner, Leslie, but the romance elements stay nicely in the background. The pervasive wry British humor comes across as natural instead of an over-the-top method to manipulate the reader.

Overall, Aaronovich’s ride was not as fun and thrilling to me as a Dresden story or as mesmerizing and mythical as a Harry Potter tale, but I enjoyed it a lot and expect different forms of pleasure from future reads in the series. I look forward to further development in the affectionate but competitive interplay between Peter and Leslie, as illustrated early in this book:
Leslie: “Let’s be honest, I’m bloody amazing as a copper.”
“And what am I?”
“Too easily distracted.”
“I am not.”
“New Year’s Eve, Trafalgar Square, big crowd, bunch of total wankers pissing in the fountain—remember that?” asked Leslie. “Wheels come off, wankers get stroppy and what were you doing?”
“I was only gone for a couple of seconds,” I said.
“You were checking what was written on the lion’s bum,” said Leslie. “I was wrestling a couple of drunken chavs and you were doing historical research.” …”I like you, I think you are a good man, but it’s like you don’t see the world the way a copper needs to see the world—it’s like you’re seeing stuff that isn’t there.”
…”Seeing stuff that isn’t there can be a useful skill for a copper,” I said.

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Reading Progress

August 17, 2013 – Started Reading
August 17, 2013 – Shelved
August 21, 2013 – Finished Reading
August 23, 2013 – Shelved as: fiction
August 23, 2013 – Shelved as: fantasy
August 23, 2013 – Shelved as: mystery
August 23, 2013 – Shelved as: london

Comments Showing 1-10 of 10 (10 new)

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message 1: by Kim (new) - added it

Kim This novel keeps popping up in GR friends' updates. I must get around to reading it.


message 2: by Arah-Lynda (last edited Aug 24, 2013 06:31AM) (new)

Arah-Lynda You are among other goodreads friends that make mention of the Harry Dresden series in a positive way. I have not read one yet, but I am thinking I should. Charming review.


Michael Kim wrote: "This novel keeps popping up in GR friends' updates. I must get around to reading it."

It's a fast and light read, with no higher purpose than to stretch your imagination, tour London in an alternative way, and make you feel affection and concern for the success in life and love for its wholesome hero.


Michael Arah-Lynda wrote: "You are among other goodreads friends that make mention of the Harry Dresden series in a positive way. I have not read one yet, but I am thinking I should. Charming review."

Thanks! I am one who ignored most fantasy lit since my youth, quenched enough by classics like Lord of the Rings and Dune and making more recent exceptions for Harry Potter tales. But the renaissance of talented fantasy writers has changed my mind. I've gone from reading 2 or 3 a year to 10 so far this year.


message 5: by Sue (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sue Nice summary of its purpose, Michael. I really enjoy this series .... a great alternative to the heavier tomes at times. I do enjoy that touch of another reality and I love the British humor. I probably should give. the. Dresden series a try. I liked its brief series on TV.


Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh Michael wrote: "Arah-Lynda wrote: "You are among other goodreads friends that make mention of the Harry Dresden series in a positive way. I have not read one yet, but I am thinking I should. Charming review."

T..."


Added, thanks Michael. I'm in the same boat as you, also quenched my thirst on Lord of the Rings & Dune and haven't been reading much of the genre in years, & I never went for Vampire novels. The recent fun with Gaiman has me hooked again though.


Michael Sue wrote: "Nice summary of its purpose, Michael. I really enjoy this series .... I probably should give. the. Dresden series a try..."

I appreciate it that you give the others thumbs up. I have only read two Dresdens, so could use some help to find the best ones. Unlike a few series, I don't intend to read them all. They have a lot of wild and thrilling situations combined with sardonic humor that often breaks laugh out loud parts right when you need relief. The poor guy is often broke, loveless, and up against the wall in saving people and world peace against powerful enemies and magical beings.


Shelli Glad you liked it Michael and I agree with others that the series gets better...I'm reading the 3rd one now. I loved your description of the purpose!
I thought I would love Harry Dresden...fully expected to, but easily lost interest after the first couple....if you find a really good one, let me know and I may give him another try.


Michael Shelli wrote: "Glad you liked it Michael and I agree with others that the series gets better...I thought I would love Harry Dresden...fully expected to, but easily lost interest after the first couple..."

Interesting that you like these better than Dresden series. Can't help making comparison and then trying to explain the more subtler pleasures of Aaronovich. Like trying to justify infidelity. :-)


Shelli ;).....I think they are more fun!


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