Ben Aaronovitch takes a detour from London in his latest urban fantasy novella, but doesn’t really go too far afield. In The October Man we take a break from the adventures of Peter Grant in London to see what is happening elsewhere in the world of magical policing. We arrive in Germany to enjoy an adventure with Peter’s counterpart Tobias (Tobi) Winter, another young copper who turned out to have a bit of a gift with magic.
Tobi is assigned to work a case in Trier where a man has died in weird circumstances – his body consumed by the fungus used to produce dessert wines. He’s assigned a regular police officer as liaison and initially things someone is having a laugh because she’s called Vanessa Sommer. Together they investigate and find a case similar to Peter’s first – possession of someone by a revenant (not as scary as Mister Punch in the original Rivers books, but pretty bad), death by magic, meeting the local river and the cute/scary child personification of the Mosel River.
It was definitely interesting to see a different view particularly as we’re aware from the Rivers books that Nightingale pretty much single handedly wiped out the Nazi magic effort in WW2 and following the war strict rules were applied to limit German magic use. The river gods also don’t like the local magic users as during that time the Nazis killed (as they couldn’t enslave) them and weakened magic in the area. But as with London magic is returning – reason for a little girl to be reborn as god of the Mosel – and Tobi and his boss realise it’s time for them to start growing the team…
For a short story we manage to cram in a decent adventure, the introduction of a complete new set of characters, and the usual sense of place (via a love of architecture and random facts) that Aaronovitch likes to stuff into his work. If this is an attempt to broaden the scope of his series and we get to see more of the return of magic to the world through additional countries and teams then this is a great start and I’d like to see more of it.