In the third installment of Ben Aaronovitch’s series about magic, supernatural beings, and a special police squad in London, Aaronovitch does the Whedon/Buffy thing. There’s a “Monster of the month” plot for our hero, Peter Grant, involving a murdered American, unbreakable ceramics, a female FBI agent, and, as you might have guessed, the London Underground system.
At the same time, Peter and his fellow officer and friend, Lesley, and his mentor, Inspector Nightingale, are trying to hunt down a rogue wizard known only as the Faceless Man by tracking down people this wizard may have trained in magic. Lesley continues to recover from a brutal and disfiguring accident that occurred in Book 1. Peter struggles both to accept how his friend looks and to deal with his guilt in involving Lesley in the case that caused it.
In some ways, I found myself more interested in the characters and the longer story arc than I did in the “underground” mystery. The truth behind James Gallagher’s death is interesting once it is revealed but the journey to get there was less compelling to me, except when supernatural beings related to London’s landmarks show up. These moments are when I can see these novels working as a television series—created by the BBC, of course.
Still, Aaronovitch does a great job of creating London and its history as another “character” that we continually learn about as the story unfolds. Peter Grant is a great narrator, both self-deprecating and funny. Also, the side characters that are being introduced are fun and I predict we will be seeing more of Abigail and Kumar in future stories.
Not my favorite of the series so far, but I don’t regret any time spent with Peter and friends.