Mystery reader (especially series) and Austen lover
For several years now, I have studiously avoided any and all of the current books involving vampires, ghosts, werewolves, spirits and similar creatures in mystery and other genres. I didn't read horror stories, period.
Then I read some member reviews of "Midnight Riot," and thought I'd give it a try, despite the dead, undead and non-human monsters. What a revelation! This book gives the reader a rollicking ride through modern day London in the course of a murder investigation. It is fast-paced, engrossing and hilarious. I laughed out loud repeatedly when listening. In addition, I learned a bit of history about various sites in and around London.
Constable Peter Grant, having just finished his probationary period with the Metropolitan Police, interviews a witness to murder, only to find out that his witness is the ghost of a man who died 120 years before. As a result of his being able to see and converse with the ghost, he is recruited by Inspector Thomas Nightingale to work in a unit (made up of only Nightingale and Peter) whose "beat" is anything non-human, undead or uncanny. Turns out Nightingale is a wizard, and Peter becomes his apprentice. Now, sweep all ideas of Harry Potter out of your mind -- this is not a Hogwarts type of story.
As Peter, Nightingale and Constable Lesley May, a friend of Peter's, work their way through the mystery. they encounter a great deal of violence, a number of River Spirits, ghosts, vampires, and general confusion. Peter Grant is a lovely character, who is smarter than he realizes, and who looks at London and its residents with a jaundiced eye and very ironic comment.
Other reviews give a much more detailed description of the book, and I refer you to those other descriptions. I want to talk about the narrator, Kobna Holdbrook-Smith. He is perfect! He gives Peter's character just the right accent and attitude, that of a young mixed race man from a working class background who has a breezy attitude and many a smart remark to make. Then he makes Nightingale a well educated gentleman of at least a century earlier. Male and female voices, London accents, German, Indian, Middle Eastern, African, Caribbean and Japanese voices are all wonderful. KHS brings the book to life beautifully.
I purchased The Mermaids Singing partially because of the reviews I read on Audible, but probably more because Val McDermid seemed to be the favorite mystery author of Mikael Blomqvist in The Millenium Trilogy (The Girl With .....). Now that I have read all of the Tony Hill/Carol Jordan books to date (a new one is due later this year), I felt it was time to write a review of the first book.
McDermid writes wonderful prose that makes her characters come alive -- all of them, not just the two major characters. I won't try to tell you about the plot, since many other reviews do that. But the development of the plot, along with the minutiae of each character's life and personality, make for excellent reading. McDermid creates a tight, incredibly tense story that keeps you reading, sometimes even when you don't want to.
If you are averse to graphic depictions of violence and perversion, you may want to skip this series. But if that's not a problem, I highly recommend these books. In Tony Hill, McDermid has created a flawed and damaged character who still manages to live in the world and work for the forces of good as a Profiler, expert at his work because of his scarred past. The relationship of Tony and Carol Jordan, police inspector, is so tentative and slow moving that you sometimes could scream, but you keep waiting for it to progress. The pair pursues serial killers in plots that will keep you on the edge of your seat with your jaw clenched.
It is important that you read the Tony Hill/Carol Jordan books in the order in which they were published, since these are not stand alone novels. The characters and their relationships and pasts are developed over the course of the series, and reading out of order makes it more difficult to follow some developments.
This third book in the Peter Grant series is the best so far. Peter now has a friend and co-worker in the Folly, Constable Lesley May (former victim of magic and now learning to be a practitioner). While their boss Nightingale is searching for the illegally trained and unlicensed wizards in Britain in order to catch the "Faceless Man," Peter and Lesley encounter ghosts, semi-feys, fairies, elves, goblins, River spirits, a rogue FBI agent from the US, and all the regular (ordinary?) characters.
As usual, the story is told with great panache, wit, and humor, providing many laugh-out-loud moments. Author Ben Aaronovitch displays in these books an almost unbelievable breadth of imagination, and delights me when he comes up with a really fresh twist on the existence and coexistence of magical and non-magical elements in current-day London. His inventiveness and humor sometimes call to mind the very different, but also wildly inventive, humor of Jasper Fforde in the Thursday Next novels.
I am already impatient for the next installment of Peter Grant's adventures. Long may he live to have many, many more.