Ever since I first read a Kate Griffin book I’ve developed a serious love for urban fantasy set in London. I’m sure I could be persuaded to read books set in other locales, but really, London is my favourite. So I’ll pretty much take any chance I can get to head back to a magical London, which was why I was so excited for Ben Aaronovitch’s latest novel.
‘Whispers Under Ground’ is the third in a series featuring Peter Grant, an officer in the Metropolitan Police and the last apprentice to the last sorcerer in London. We’re taken back inside the Folly, the ad-hoc department headquarters for Grant and his master, Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale, who are called upon when things start getting … off.
This time, there’s been a murder, and the victim is lying bled out on the platform of an Underground train station. Peter Grant is called in because things feel … off. Here starts a somewhat rambling murder-mystery that takes Grant – and his colleague Police Constable Lesley May – all across London as they hunt the killer. Things quickly turn out to be more and more confusing, and things turn pear-shaped pretty quickly after Peter gets washed away through the London sewer system.
Unlike Aaronovitch’s previous books, Whispers Underground is not as much of a kick in the gun as the previous books were. The climaxes are not as high, and the moments fraught with concern are not as worrying. It’s like the whole book got put on anti-depressants; the peaks and lows have been minimised.
On top of that there were some atrocious editing mistakes littered throughout the book that really took me out of the story.
One other aspect of the book which is liable to be interpreted as a negative is the sheer number of pop-culture references used throughout the book. Now, for me personally – and I imagine this is a very personal-opinion topic – I don’t really mind. I was a bit surprised, to be sure, when I was reading references to Doctor Who, Terry Pratchett, and Lord of the Rings page after page, but it did somewhat cement the book and what happened within in a time and place I am familiar with. And Aaronovitch is not required to write a book that will stay “relevant” for the decades to come; he is writing for an audience today, not tomorrow.
I have no doubt that for some people, the pop-culture references will drag them out of the story. It did me, at times, though in a way that was sort of entertaining. I think maybe Aaronovitch overdid it at times, but maybe that’s just one of those things an author learns along the way.
Whispers Underground is not the best in the series, but it was a book that I didn’t put down and read in a whole night. It was fun, and I loved spending time with Peter Grant again, and the world he is only just beginning to understand. Definitely a great read.
Review by Joshua S Hill
Nikitas from UK
I agree with Joshua's review. The book is generally enjoyable. Similarly to previous books, there is a nice flow to the story telling and some nice moments where I smiled with what I was reading. However, there is something missing. Everything is solved too easily and the story ends without too much excitement. I fear that the whole story is a bit blant.
7/10 from 2 reviews