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Midnight Riot

Peter Grant, Book 1
Narrated by: Kobna Holdbrook-Smith
Series: Rivers of London Series, Book 1
Length: 9 hrs and 56 mins
4 out of 5 stars (5,105 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

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

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

I LOVE this Book!

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.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

149 of 154 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Disc World Fans...This Way Please

This book is great…it’s Disc World great, it’s PG Wodehouse great, it’s Tom Sharpe great. It’s as British as Chicken Vindaloo or Soccer Violence. As an ex-Brit, raised in London now in SoCal this book hit me like the smell of damp overcoats on the underground or fresh fish and chips. If you are a follower of BBC America or PBS and have already found and enjoyed "Doctor Who", "Luther" or "Top Gear" I invite you to shout “Yipee” and jump in the deep end. This is a funny, gripping and fiercely entertaining romp through modern day London where the ghosts are as real as science, led by our reluctant hero; a junior policemen with unexpected magical powers. If Harry Potter had joined the London cops after Hogwarts this is what might have happened.
If you are an American, not quite so well versed in the parlance of London and its police force then you may be a little confused by the pervasive used of London and Police vernacular....but read this book anyway. It's brilliantly narrated by Kobna Holdbrook-Smith whose accent is 100% authentic London street…and Kudos to the producers for not attempting to “RP” it up. Its basic premise is at once completely silly and absolutely sublime. The characters are authentic and in many cases hilarious.
It’s not often that I find myself gushing …but I simply have to in this case. To find a new, funny, authentic and creative voice in the often ghastly genre of urban magic is refreshing and encouraging. This book is everything the dreadful Stackhouse or True Blood books aren't. It’s funny and credible, without taking itself too seriously. I tried this book as a special offer from Audible which promotes the first book of series presumably with the aim of hooking me in… and it worked. I invite you to follow and enjoy this exercise in Britt-erati at its best.

118 of 126 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Very-Big-City British Experience

The first time I listened to this book I was simply delighted with it all. The author is creative, entertaining, clever and knowledgeable about a wide diversity of history, cultures and technologies, AND that is all before you get to the wizards. The narrator stands firmly on his own skills. He demonstrates an expressive repertoire that includes men and women from across the British Isles and and parts of Africa, and I really can't imagine anybody else doing this book and its sequels any level of justice. Ben Aaronovitch may have created this world but Kobna Holdbrook-Smith is the genii locorum.

The second time I listened to this story (after listening to the next two volumes in the series) it became apparent to my essentially Midwestern American existence that this audio book is more than a London-based story read by a man with a fascinating and wide-ranging accent. Some books are just universal stories that adjust the words - "flat" instead of "apartment", "nick" instead of "steal", a cuppa, a rollup, the Tube. (I had to look up "skittles" because it was obvious we weren't discussing candy.) But this book goes much deeper.

This story is fundamentally English but not in the way I usually think of Agatha Christie or James Bond. It is based on the layout of the London Rivers and the timeline of the growth of London. It explores the layers of culture on several points of that line, and the people who inhabit those ephemeral intersections. In the modern time the of New Scotland Yard there is a traditional Traveler's camp, attending the Royal Opera House, a precariat Anglo-African homecoming, The answer to the mystery is related to the British Theater and I think that most Americans won't get it before we are led to the path in the middle of the narrative. I was helped in the who-dun-it category because I had recently listened to Christopher Fowler's "Bryant and May and the Memory of Blood" (also very British and interesting). So I knew as soon as they found the baby in the yard which direction this tragedy was headed. It was not a spoiler. The story was at the same time familiar and exotic, mesmerizing to listen to and happily surprising. It was so easy to co-mingle the archaic concepts of "thief takers" and the ritual formality of traditional education with jokes about a "secret branch of the Met", "The Ministry of Magic" and "cunning plans" because of the combined talents of the author and the narrator.

Two things I didn't like:

1) Leslie's voice was whiny. She is supposed to be the hardcore WPC and the interpretation of her voice was not suited to her role, however, due to circumstances in Leslie's life it changes in the upcoming books. The whine was perfect for Beverly!

2) The UK title for this book is "The Rivers of London" and there is a very nice cartoon on the front of the book depicting a map of a river (probably the Thames) rolling through London. It looks like a river of blood, but only when I thought about it a while. The US title is "Midnight Riot" and there is a picture/photo of a dark, brutish figure holding a gun and producing a werelight. The first time I saw the US cover, before I read the book, I thought the light was a flashlight (torch) and decided that the book with the gun-toting big scary guy shining a light in my eyes was too threatening and was going to be violent and not my type. I skipped it for several months but it kept coming up in my Audible recommendations so I finally read the description and reviews. I hate that Americans are stereotyped as gangsters, violent and coarse and that somebody thought that the book would sell better in the US with a gun on the cover. Metropolitan policemen, especially probationary constables, don't even carry guns unless they are in a special unit.The later books US books have the same unfortunate cover design although the titles do not change.

I recommend this book to:
-anybody who enjoys fantasy in a modern setting
-anybody who enjoys books with historical aspects
-anybody who enjoys police procedurals
-anybody who listens to an audio book for the operatic experience (that is what I call listening to the audio book just to hear the sounds, like listening to music)

I hope you enjoy this series as much as I have!

27 of 29 people found this review helpful

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Maybe not for everyone.

First, a disclaimer. When I watch British Mysteries on TV, I often need to turn on the closed captioning, to understand what is being said. Truth is, I speak American. This book is definitely in English.

The story is a fun combination of Police Procedural and Fantasy (I think that is the proper term). If you enjoy both, you need to read this book.

The reader does a fine job of delineating the various characters, primarily using various regional accents. He also does a good job of presenting women's voices without using falsetto.

This is the first of a series, which is tied, not just a series of individual books, so it's better to read them in order. I've read the first three and enjoyed each.

61 of 71 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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Growing on me but the narration needs improvement

Mixed emotions on this one. Story was okay but a bit odd. The characters are fantastic.

My major issue was with the narration. The actual reading was superb. I love Kobna's voice. But, and this is a major but, there were too many sniffling, swallowing, and mouth noises. It was totally distracting. The producers have to correct that or this series will be unlistenable.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Unique story

Thiswasapretty(take deep breath)good story.(take deep breath) Narraterspoke(take deep breath)prettyfast.(take deep breath) Hisbreathing( take deep breath)wasmadeoverly (Take deep breath)aware.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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England's deities in irreverent antics

Any additional comments?

I am skeptical of the entire werething-vampire-ghost-zombie-spiritofwhatever craze. After the past decade or so wizards have become ho-hum; too many insincere imitations going around. But I loved this book! Peter Grant is a great central character. He has some unusual talents, but is no superhero. He has plenty of failings and foibles and uncertainties. The supernatural certainly plays a huge part in this book, but it is treated with a combination of irreverence, comedy, and rationality that is refreshing. The history and mythology of London are integrated into the plot and give rise to some fascinating characters. The re-imagination of spirits general and particular is well-done and often quite funny. I will definitely listen to more books by this author. The narration was excellent and enhanced the story.

In some respects this book reminds me of the Bryant and May series; if you like Bryant and May, you might well enjoy this series too.

29 of 34 people found this review helpful

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Urban Fantasy Fans-- Buy This Book, It's Great

Originally, I wrote this review for the Vine program on Amazon. So I didn't pay for the book. Then I ran down a copy of the CD audio book through a friend. I fell in like with the narrator. Kobna Holdbrook-Smith has a fantastic voice for this book-- actually he has a lovely voice for reading anything. I cannot imagine Peter Grant being read by any other narrator. He also does a great job with the other characters. I purchased this from audible because I have not actually paid for a copy of this book until now and because I wanted Audible to keep bringing good audio books like this to the US.

Ok, ignore any references to grown up Harry Potter. Yes, the hero does end up apprenticed to a wizard but that's where the resemblance ends. Peter Grant starts as a probationary constable in the London Metropolitan Police. His father is a drunken jazz musician while his mother cleans offices for a living. Peter wants to become a detective on the murder squad. However, Peter is not the ideal candidate for any of the high profile squads. He is though the ideal candidate for one very obscure squad with a total membership of 2, counting Peter.

Things I liked-- Aaronovitch writes about a multicultural London. Peter is mixed race and writes about his experiences with a serio-comic turn that I really like. He's smart, quick thinking and funny so reading from his viewpoint is a pleasant. Dark humor punctuates bouts of well described action.

The book actually comes across as a police procedural, even as Peter deals with issues like a dispute between Father Thames and Mother Thames-- which gives the book it's British title, Rivers of London. I like that title better any way..

The next one is available on Audible already. I hope other readers enjoy this book as much as I have.

49 of 58 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Nothing Like Harry Potter - which is just fine!

Don't get me wrong, I *love* the Harry Potter series - but this is a totally different animal. The only things they have in common are magic and infinitely listenable writing styles.
I don't know what I can add that others have not - I have never read/listened to a police procedural that was quite this detailed before - but I also haven't read many. I really enjoy the way Peter, the main character takes what he's learned from being a cop in general and transitions it to dealing with his wholly new experiences with the supernatural.
This is a very adult novel, it's got some horrific scenes, as well as use of language, and sexual situations. None of it is gratuitous, however, it all slides well into the story.
I read a couple of pans involving how british this book is - in that there are some words and phrases americans wouldn't necessarily get. The book was written for a british audience and I don't mind popping over to google to look up "punter" (cause it certainly isn't talking about football players) and other such words as well as place names I wouldn't know by hearing in the book.
As a narrator, for the most part Holdbrook-Smith does a bangup job. He does most of the accents so well, that when he flubbed one by not being able to maintain it, I still gave him a pass. The only thing that really gets on me are the occasional mouth noises that leave me wanting to say "swallow!". I enjoy that he acts the book as opposed to just reading it and I'm glad he does the whole series as it's been published in the US so far.
I really recommend this book to those who enjoy urban fantasy. Particularly fans of Harry Dresden. He has some fun takes on issues Dresden has encountered (such as magic farbing technology) and the main character's enjoyable wit, along with self expressed flaws put me in mind of that series. Though once again - different animals, but equally as enjoyable.

23 of 27 people found this review helpful

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Nice snack between Dresden Files

In spite of the references through Ben Aaronovitch's series to the greats of British fantasy - Harry Potter, Tolkien, Terry Pratchet, Dr Who, etc. - the Peter Grant books much more strongly favor an American series, The Dresden Files, albeit with a British flavor. I decided to listen to all three of currently available Peter Grant books (a fourth is due out later this year) before writing about them so I would know if I could recommend the whole series since that's nice to know before starting. No doubt in my mind, if you like Dresden, you'll like Peter Grant. Be aware though, in spite of some internet book reviews comparing this series to Harry Potter, it's not at all that type of fantasy series and it is definitely not for children (some sex/some graphic violence).

Midnight Riot has its own unique characters, settings, plots, and magic system so it doesn't come across as derivative, but it has some nice commonalities with Dresden. Harry Dresden was an accomplished wizard when we first met him; Peter Grant does not even know about Wizards when we first meet him, but both men are extremely likable, combine self assurance bordering on arrogance with redeeming self deprecating humor, attract great friends and allies, and equally attract perverse and interesting enemies. Each series also has a very likable police woman to serve as sidekick/cohort/potential romantic interest, each is set in a huge metropolitan area which sets much of the tone of the books, and each is built on short term mysteries solved within each book and overarching plot lines that span the books. Best of all, each series on audio has found a delightful voice to convey the character of the central protagonist perfectly. Kobna Holdbrook-Smith fits Peter Grant hand-in-glove as James Marsters fits Dresden. Like the Dresden Files, the Peter Grant books are are first person narratives so success on audio is very dependent on having that perfect voice and Holdbrook-Smith strikes the right blend of sassy and sweet/smart and awkward to make it easy for the listener to take to Peter right away.

This is not a series where the magical system will overwhelm the listener because we learn about it little by little as Peter is learning it, but in this first book, it seems a bit muddy - not all the dots quite connect. In spite of that, the book is action packed with lots of fun good guys and bad guys both and my interest never flagged. As with any GOOD series, Midnight Riot provides conclusive answers to many questions, leaves open the options to pursue answers for other questions, and ends with a bang. Just the sort of thing to make you go get book 2, Moon Over Soho, and I recommend that you do just that.

One note about the narrator, Kobna Holbrook-Smith - his voice is perfect for Peter Grant and he does pretty good accents for other characters as well. He has a decidedly pronounced London accent, speaks quickly, and there is a fair amount British slang in the book so my American ears had to struggle a bit in the beginning to keep up. I found that I quickly adjusted to the narration and within a couple of hours I had no trouble following and came to really enjoy this narrator.

25 of 31 people found this review helpful