Probationary constable Peter Grant dreams of being a detective in London's Metropolitan Police. Too bad his superior plans to assign him to the Case Progression Unit, where the biggest threat he'll face is a paper cut. But Peter's prospects change in the aftermath of a puzzling murder, when he gains exclusive information from an eyewitness who happens to be a ghost. Peter's ability to speak with the lingering dead brings him to the attention of Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale, who investigates crimes involving magic and other manifestations of the uncanny.
Now, as a wave of brutal and bizarre murders engulfs the city, Peter is plunged into a world where gods and goddesses mingle with mortals and a long-dead evil is making a comeback on a rising tide of magic.
©2011 Ben Aaronvitch (P)2012 Tantor
Holdbrook-Smith's performance of Midnight Riot is spectacular. He voices engaging, pitch perfect accents and harmonious male and female voices. It’s really a pleasure to listen to this book.
This is a comfortable combination of reader/writer, and spending time with people you like a lot. I had just finished a really good series, but it was dark and disturbing - more on the nightmare level and I needed a change of pace. This series is more a fun thrill ride. KH-S is perfect - like listening to someone tell you the story of his life with the sound and feel of London. I am working my way though the series in order and enjoying it all. The story is on the adult level with rough edges - not for children. A cozy fantasy police procedural - pleasant all the way around.
So, I Read This Book Today . . .
“I gave the prescribed Metropolitan Police “first greeting”.
“Oi!” I said “What do you think you’re doing?” ― Ben Aaronovitch, Midnight Riot
“’Conflict resolution,’ said Nightingale, ‘Is this what they teach at Hendon these days?’
‘Yes, sir,’ I said. ‘But don’t worry, they also teach us how to beat people with phone books and the ten best ways to plant evidence.’” ― Ben Aaronovitch, Midnight Riot
First, I love British Urban Fantasy. It is often quirky, normally presented in a dry, witty style, and sometimes simply figuring out the language can give it a while other level of subtle humour not found in “American English” writing. I love it, and Ben Aaronovitch doesn’t disappoint with “Midnight Riot”. Of course, listening to the book rather than simply reading it added a whole other level to my enjoyment. The narration of Kobna Holdbrook-Smith is everything I could have wanted and more. His delivery has the level of dry wit, spot-on delivery and subliminal snark that brings a ‘good’ book to the level of ‘brilliant’.
Peter Grant is a London ‘copper’ – just off his two year probationary period as a constable, his lack of ability to actually pay attention to what is going on around him has him scheduled for – basically a fancied up secretary. But one cold night on a scene watch under the West Portico of St. Paul’s at Covent Garden, Peter meets an odd little man in an Edwardian smoking jacket: “…don’t ask me why I know what an Edwardian smoking jacket looks like: let’s just say it has something to do with Doctor Who and leave it at that.” That in itself is weird enough. But the fact that he is a ghost is just a tad over the top, even for a Londoner.
Suddenly, Peter finds himself in a world he never knew existed – where ghosts and goulies, goddesses and monsters all exist just below the everyday hustle and bustle of the crowded city streets. In his new position as assistant and student wizard under the tutelage of Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale. Thomas Nightingale, London Detective and Wizard. Well, nobody ever said being a London cop is simple, you know. Now, there are all sorts of odd things going on around Peter – and all of his friends, his family, and his coworkers, as well as the whole population of London, are in more danger than he ever could have imagined.
Peter Grant is an unusual character. Half white, half Somali, Peter suffers the same sorts of issues that any black man in a mostly white force suffers. He likes his job, but his fuzzy grasp on concentration causes him issues – issues that his Probationary partner, Leslie May, has to pick up the slack on. And of course, the oddity of his new position causes a strain for him within the department, as does the bureaucracy inherent in a huge, ancient city such as London.
“As soon as we stopped sleeping with our cousins and built walls, temples and a few decent nightclubs, society became too complex for any one person to grasp all at once, and thus bureaucracy was born. A bureaucracy breaks the complexity down into a series of interlocking systems. You don’t need to know how the systems fit together, or even what function your bit of the system has, you just perform your bit and the whole machine creaks on.”
Midnight Riot is amazingly creative. Ben Aaronovitch takes the trouble to weave in the history and stories of London, all the way back to its very beginnings, Londinium, a settlement established on the current site of the City of London around AD 47. The focus of the story interweaves history and mythology, witchcraft and ghosts, and Mother and Father Thames and their children, the many other waterways of Britain.
As Tim from Temecula says in his Audio review, “It’s as British as Chicken Vindaloo or Soccer Violence.” Of course, as a former Brit, Tim should know – ;-)
Idiosyncratic and wickedly fun, the Peter Grant Series is an absolute blast. I can highly recommend it! Especially if you listen to the Audio Version narrated by Kobna Holdbrook-Smith. Awesome!
I read the book first, so I know the writing stands on it's own. The entire series holds up excellent well. Kobna Holdbrook-Smith is a brilliant narrator; I haven't heard him miss on an accent yet, and his first-person narration makes the book feel like a friend is telling you a fascinating story. He consistently catches and amplifies the humor and irony -- and the genuinely human moments of pathos -- with wonderful timing, complete naturalness, and without overacting. This is rare IME.
I was really excited to start this book but although the concept was good the execution wasn't . The writing was dull and the narrator was difficult to understand as times.
I will start like so many other reviewers by speaking to the English accented narration. As an American, I had a few issues understanding initially, but within the first hour my ears had acquired the proper listening techniques, and I was well adjusted.
The narrator is very good, even a yank like me could tell that Holdbrook-Smith skillfully transitioned between many different British accents and dialects. Really enjoyed his narration.
Now to the book. This was a very unexpected read - usually books like this (magic oriented) have a specific mold that they follow, this did not. Probably what stood out to me the most was the complete indifference to the supernatural. Typically in books like this, there are large portions of the narrative reserved for walking the characters (and reader) through the reality of new concepts like magic, or ghosts, or vampires. In this book, the character attitudes are totally indifferent - "So there is magic then? ok." "So there are ghosts then? ok". Honestly I can't really grasp how this makes me feel - on one side it feels like the most important parts of the book are devalued, but on the other hand, this change of pace and breaking of the mold in traditional "magic" books feels welcome.
The other note I had about this book is that, excluding all the supernatural elements, the writing is very realistic and down to earth. There were no 1-on-7 fight scenes, no surviving unbelievable odds, no corny macho dialogue, etc. Nor does Aaronovitch censor his writing - (very minor plot revelation warning) one of the most surprising moments in this book is when an infant gets murdered. Many authors are too afraid to write such umpleasantries in their work, but such unpleasantries are real life and this bring credibility to this book.
This was an honest to goodness detective sluether novel, in which, magic and other supernatural elements are naturally woven in to compliment the narrative, not dominate it. Having exhausted many of my favorite Audible series, I am happy to find a good newcomer to add to my collection, can't wait to dive into the next book.
First, the pluses: Midnight riot has good dialogue, interesting characters, does a good job of describing London, and I liked the narrator.
But, I just never cared what happened. It was generally rambling, with no indication where the story was going, there was no antagonist to worry about, and it was difficult to really care deeply about any of the "good" guys.
I really wanted to like this story, and gave it the benefit of the doubt enough to finish it, hoping that a great ending would salvage the book. Alas, it did not.
Started devouring books at age 7 and haven't stopped since... Now I can read while I drive, do dishes, clean the house, or work in garden!
If you like the Dresden Chronicles, you'll enjoy this series. Excellent writing, a fast moving plot, and likable, interesting characters. Left me wanting more, so I'm happy there are a few more in the series!
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