Broken Homes by Ben Aaronovitch (Rivers of London series: Book 4)

8/10 A relatively easy read with solid storytelling.

"A mutilated body in Crawley. Another killer on the loose. The prime suspect is one Robert Weil; an associate of the twisted magician known as the Faceless Man? Or just a common or garden serial killer?

Before PC Peter Grant can get his head round the case a town planner going under a tube train and a stolen grimoire are adding to his case-load.

So far so London.

But then Peter gets word of something very odd happening in Elephant and Castle, on an housing estate designed by a nutter, built by charlatans and inhabited by the truly desperate.

Is there a connection?

And if there is, why oh why did it have to be South of the River?"

Four books in and I am still enjoying all elements of this series. The narrative in Broken Homes is well constructed, engaging and immersive and it's what I have come to expect from Aaronovitch. The plot picks up not long after the events of Whispers Under Ground; Lesley is now an apprentice and becoming a better one than Peter, but the Folly Team is no closer to capturing the Masked Man, a villain who tempts, seduces and can pull the ones we love into the dark and wild.

Aaronovitch has made a slight change in perspective for Broken Homes. There was a scaled down focus on the day-to-day magical elements but when magic is employed it's on a more ambitious level. The attention is aimed more to the criminal investigative side of the Folly Team, solving the mystery with hard work and a quick mind. This was a nice change of pace and adds to the overall dynamic of the plot and characters. Old secrets get revealed, new magical lessons are learnt and magic isn’t as dead as everyone thinks.

Peter, Lesley and Nightingale finally come to the realisation that the Masked Man is just another criminal capable of missteps and mistakes and not some Moriarty or Machiavellian genius. Unfortunately they still have no clues to his identify…

Regrettably this time round we don’t get much interaction with the Personas of the River Gods, other than an amusing chapter where we get to see what men do best around the opposite sex, putting their foot in it. Even if you are a wizard understanding women (or River Goddesses) is something you get wrong more times than not. To balance this absence of incarnated Gods we are introduced to other magical entities from lore and legend, fairies and wood nymphs abound. In a world where magic is meant to be dying, there are a lot of enchanted and charmed communities about.

Broken Homes begins to try and explain some of the history of magic in this world, illustrated best in the German Hedge-Witches dynamic and their involvement in WWII. The fact there were - and may still be - other magic institutes begins to make Nightingale more human and accessible as it shows even he doesn’t know was much as he though he did.

You can’t go past the humour in these books, reading Peters attempts to use dog barks as scientific measurement in his research into magic and let’s not forget Molly’s learning to cook and everyone still going hungry. The times when magical ‘kick-assery’ is employed are absorbing and energizing; Nightingale coming to the rescue of Peter and Lesley, a cottage collapsing around him and walking out fixing his tie in one hand and dragging the bad guy with the other, very Bond.

Laughs, action, betrayal and the magic woof-scale. What more can you ask for?
Fergus McCartan, 7.5/10


This skilfully blends fact with fiction. Author Aaronovitch clearly has an encyclopaedic knowledge of all things London, yet this series takes place in an alternate London. This is where the police force has a supernatural crime division and magic and dark arts features heavily in everyday life.

The narrator, Peter Grant, makes for a likeable main character, with his witty observations and dry, world-weary humour. I found this novel both original and imaginative, with the villain,‘The Faceless Man’ like London’s answer to Blofeld or Moriarty.

This was a relatively easy read with solid storytelling, yet I did get the sense that something was somehow missing. I am still not sure what, as all the ingredients were present and correct, but I could not shake off a vague sense of anti-climax. The action does take a while to get going, and the novel is flat in places. Despite these issues, Aaronovitch has an exceptional imagination and it is clear to see why he is such a prolific and popular author.
Daniel Cann, 7.5/10

Broken Homes by Ben Aaronovitch
Published 2013 by Gollancz
ISBN: 978-0575132467

Reviews by and Daniel Cann


Ben Aaronovitch's Rivers of London series series

Rivers of London

Rivers of London series: Book 1

Moon Over Soho

Rivers of London series: Book 2

Whispers Under Ground

Rivers of London series: Book 3

Broken Homes

Rivers of London series: Book 4

Foxglove Summer

Rivers of London series: Book 5

Broken Homes reader reviews

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