Moon Over Soho

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Moon Over Soho by Ben AaronovitchFollowing on quickly from Rivers of London, Moon Over Soho is the second in Ben Aaronovitch's contemporary fantasy novels featuring PC Peter Grant and his progress in "that unit" of the Metropolitan Police, the one that deals in weird stuff, and right away I'll tell you that if you liked the first one then you'll like the second as it's very much more of the same. The two books do run one after the other so it helps if you've read them in order, but it won't ruin your enjoyment if you haven't.

We meet up with Grant not long after the events of the first novel. Leslie is holed up with her parents and coming to terms with her injuries while asking Peter if magic can cure her. Nightingale meanwhile is making light of his wounding and trying to carry on as if nothing was wrong despite being very frail. Peter is investigating a series of nasty murders of lone men from what appear to be attacks of Vagina Dentata. It's during these investigations that Peter gets a call from Dr. Walid about a body that has turned up bearing unmistakeable traces of magic - in this case the remnants of jazz standard, Body & Soul can be heard on him. It turns out that the stiff is a jazz saxophonist, and after interviewing his girlfriend and the rest of his band, he died shortly after finishing a gig. A bit more detective work reveals that he isn't the only jazz musician to have died recently and, and it appears that someone, or something, has actually sucked the life-force from them, jazz vampires, if you will.

Peter needs help and, despite his reluctance, seeks out the only jazz expert he knows - his father - now a pensioner but once a celebrated jazz trumpeter who threw it all away in a haze of drugs and drink. Surprisingly, Peter's dad has cleaned himself up and, unable to tackle trumpet anymore, has been learning the piano and is getting pretty good. But now that Peter's dad is looking to start gigging, he's unwittingly laying himself open to the threat of death on the jazz circuit, and Peter has to track down the killer and stop him before he strikes again.

It's nice to see that Moon Over Soho has moved on considerably from Rivers of London. There's much less exposition, especially in the police procedural bits, and the characters are allowed to breathe a little and unfold gradually which is especially gratifying as Peter's relationship with his newly-sober father takes a new turn and they feel their way around each other. Likewise Peter is very much in charge of things in this story and we get a much better idea of what he's like when he's his own man rather than tagging along in the wake of Inspector Nightingale. While Leslie necessarily takes a back seat in this story, a nice twist at the end means I'm betting that she'll feature much more heavily in the coming books.

As you'd expect if you've read the first novel, the book is peppered throughout with great humour and each character has their moment of quips, retorts and witty banter, and similarly to Rivers of London, the city itself is one the stars of the book and anyone who has ever spent time in the capital will be able to mentally trace their way through the locations featured in the story. This is one of things I love about the series and long may it continue.

As with Rivers of London the plot is a couple of cases and several disparate strands that seem entirely unrelated to each other and yet, at the end, Aaronovitch miraculously pulls them altogether, very neatly. Despite their being a big emotional hit and something of a surprise to the ending, it still carries one of those "of course" flourishes that all good crime novels have, in that it is totally unexpected, and yet inevitable all at the same time. Having said that there is a little bit of handwaving and some smoke 'n' mirrors in one particular, faceless character but it's set up nicely for the inevitable sequel.

All in all another excellent outing for Aaronovitch and the promise of a series that's set to run and run. I'm looking forward immensely to the next book, Whispers Underground, so if I were you, I'd get started on them now.

Moon Over Soho is published by Gollancz and is available with free delivery from The Book Depository and on the high street from Blackwell and all good book stores.