I put off reviewing this one because I didn’t want to get my first full intentional Cannonball with a mild disappointment. I’d picked it up because I wanted something to read on a trans-Atlantic flight but ended watching Moana (cute although the songs weren’t as awesome as advertised) and Assassin’s Creed (wow, was that a bad movie) instead. I picked it up to read a few days later because the premise sounded interesting and it was billed as the first installment of a best-selling series. I should have known better, since I don’t have a great record with best-sellers or prize winners.
The basic premise is pretty simple: Peter Grant wants to be a policeman in current-day London but discovers near the end of his training he might be herded towards the desk track and data entry. He discovers on a patrol that he can talk to ghosts, as a ghost informant tries to give him advice, and he sneaks out to try and find his informant again in hopes of getting a lead to impress his supervisors. Instead he catches the notice of Inspector Nightingale, who happens to head a one-man division, specializing in supernatural crimes. Cue the supernatural murders and hijinks…
The basic murder plot involves people suddenly going violent, killing at least one or two of those around them, then having their faces fall off and they die. While investigating, Peter also is starting to learn some basics of how to do magic, and learning about the magical world. These parts are the more interesting parts, since the characters they include are interesting. There’s Molly, the probably monstrous housekeeper, Dr Walid the coroner who knows a few things about magic, and the spirits of the various rivers and their subsidiaries around London. A family dispute among the river spirits and the fact that Peter and Nightingale (mostly Peter) get involved in helping keep the peace, almost takes over the plot. It’s certainly more interesting that chasing gruesome murders with basically no clues until the very end, when they figure out which malevolent spirit is causing the deaths.
Character-wise, I wish we saw more of Nightingale, even if we don’t necessarily know a lot about him. It would move the plot along, which gets slow at times. Peter is kind of blah by himself; he has daddy issues and is generally unremarkable. When it’s just him, things get dull. Peter’s classmate Lesly is fun though, as are some of her superiors who don’t especially like Nightingale but know he’s necessary. When Peter’s around other characters, things go better. For example, when he needs a favor from Mama Thames, spirit of the Thames, he decides to buy her help with a literal truckload of booze. The bargaining scene is actually pretty funny.
When Nightingale gets shot towards the end, that’s when I think I started to give up. While he doesn’t die, it does mean that Peter is set up to be on his own for a while, and that’s just not interesting. Especially when Lesly is also taken out for a while too. I’m not sure the next novel will be all that good, so maybe I’ll skip it. It all depends on what the local library has, since I don’t like this series well enough to invest in it via bookstore.