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4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 7 June 2011
Wonderful. Literally wonderful, in the sense that it is full of wonders.

At my age (72) it is increasingly hard to find novels that I actually want to read, and even harder to find novels which I don't give up on after perhaps 50 pages. But this one works all right.

Provided, of course, you know what to expect, and like what you are led to expect. For this is one of those cross-genre books. It's part police-procedural, part fantasy (since it's about magic, and we don't believe in magic, do we? Oh, really?), and part literary; the latter because, for a police constable of modest background and educational attainments, our hero is remarkably erudite. Oh, and there's a wide streak of humour running all the way through it -- humour of that black kind which police officers, A&E doctors, and ambulance men, develop into order to protect themselves from the horrible things they have to deal with.

Fortunately, this is number two in a series, so you can go back and start with number one before getting stuck into this one. And the only thing wrong with a series such as this is that the fact that, as my dear old Mum used to say, they don't write them fast enough.
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on 8 December 2013
Book One in this series introduced some interesting characters and a well-developed premise of a magical branch of the London police. It wasn't perfect, but I really enjoyed it and looked forward to reading the sequel. I was hoping that with the introductions out of the way, the plot would be able to take off and this second instalment might be even better.

On the whole, I think it had the same strengths and weaknesses as the first book.

The positives were a clever and internally consistent system of magic, an engaging and fully fleshed out hero and well-developed supporting characters, and a dry and very British humour reminiscent of early Terry Pratchett.

What worked less well for me, in both the first book but perhaps more so in this instalment, was the plot, which felt very convoluted and just didn't quite seem to hang together quite right. There are hints of a deeper underlying plot arc, but for the moment, it still feels quite episodic. In the case of this book, I also found a new character - half love interest, half potential suspect - significantly less compelling than most of the cast. I found the hero's reactions to her unrealistic, and it almost dulled my adoration of him.

Overall then, I'm still enjoying the series and will definitely read the next one at some point, but I'm finding myself frustrated with the way it's not quite living up to its initial promise or to some of the flashes of brilliance sprinkled through the plot. I was torn between 3 stars or 4, and have erred on the side of generosity, possibly swayed by the introduction of an evil wizard tutor at Magdalen, my old Oxford college!
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The second book by Ben to feature his Paranormal Wizard Apprentice Copper, Peter Grant, who this time is thrust into a case that may be too close to home for comfort. As with the original, the sheer scope of this book is amazing, the characters are refreshingly believable and when you add into it quirky twists on already familiar area's of London which will leave the readers clamouring for more.

The prose is light and manageable, the characters outstanding and all in the overall arc is one that will lead the readers to demanding a new title sooner rather than later as Peter and Nightingales own Sith seem to be emerging from the background. All in, this book has been very cleverly done which when added to a wonderful reading experience made this a title that was very hard to put down. If there's only one new author you try this year in the Urban Fantasy genre, make it Aaronovitch, the skills and pace will leave you wondering exactly what spell he's woven within these pages.
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'Moon Over Soho' is the second book in Ben Aaronovitch's PC Peter Grant series. If you haven't read the first, Rivers of London (Rivers of London 1) I would recommend doing so before tackling this volume as it picks up pretty much where the last one left off.

Having greatly enjoyed Rivers of London I was inevitably worried that the follow-up wouldn't succeed in replicating the first book's strengths. It turns out that my concerns were unfounded; not only is Moon Over Soho just as good as its predecessor, it actually smooths out some of the flaws that were present in Rivers of London.

For start the plot it neater, with a far tighter (if somewhat open) ending. Secondly it avoids the OTT action that peppered Rivers of London and challenged my suspension of disbelief. There's no shortage of action on display in Moon Over Soho, but no repeat of the Covent Garden riot from Rivers.

The rest of the book maintains the nice balance of police procedural, urban fantasy and love letter to London. As with Rivers there's a genuine sense of the magical to Aaronovitch's writing, both in the fantasy elements and the way he conjures up a vivid and colourful portrait of contemporary London. You can almost taste and smell the real Soho emerging from the book's pages and the spookier parts of the story are sometimes genuinely unsettling. One scene where Grant and Nightingale uncover a twisted Soho nightclub is truly creepy.

Being a second book in an ongoing series, with the main characters and basic setting established, Moon Over Soho allows the author to further explore the world he has created and develop his protagonists, all of which he does without slowing down the plot or revealing too much, too soon. By the end of the book you have a better insight into the realm Peter Grant has entered, but also the certainty that you've only scratched the surface.

The book isn't perfect of course, and Aaronovitch does stumble in a couple of areas. Grant himself remains a bit of weak link. Whilst his magical skills are growing and he's a tenacious copper when in pursuit of a bad guy, he also manages to behave stupidly on more than one occasion and misses vital clues that are staring him right in the face. He's useful as the reader's guide to a hidden and mysterious world, but it would be nice if he could be a bit smarter.

I could also have done without his romantic involvement with the mysterious Simone. Not only did the liaison feel implausible, since it was obvious from the get go that there was more to her than she was letting on, but the repeated sex scenes did begin to have the whiff of the author playing out his personal fantasies on the page, which is never good.

However this was the only part of the book that didn't really work for me and wasn't enough to spoil my enjoyment. With both the main plot's semi-open ending and the book's final scene setting up plenty of future developments, this is a series with a great deal of promise.
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on 12 May 2011
If you'll remember from the first volume, Detective Constable Peter Grant is part of the Metropolitan Police's "Economic and Specialist Crime Unit". It consists of two people - Grant and his mentor, DCI Nightingale. Nightingale is much older than he appears and infinitely more knowledgable: he's a wizard. Grant, due to a combination of inclination and misfortune, is also a wizard - at least, he's trying really hard at it.

In the first volume, Grant is wrapped up in a fairly horrific little mystery that involves dark magic and people's faces falling in. The second volume starts with the same promise: someone out there is doing something nasty (and magical). Grant needs to solve it. This time around it is also more personal. The naughty-maker is offing jazz musicians, and Grant's dad is one of the best in the business. Although he's always been wary of it, Grant finds himself easily absorbed into the jazz scene. He finds friends (and ladyfriends) and indulges himself in a little second-hand fame due to his father's reputation. These new contacts prove valuable when it comes to snooping about in the dark and spicy Soho underworld.

Just to keep things interesting, there's also something out there eating people's anatomy. Eep.

The balance here is between plot and meta-plot. One of the cases above is a fairly transparent whodunnit. I'm not the savviest mystery reader, but I found absolutely no mystery in whoactuallyddunnit. The only detection was trying to suss if Grant was being particularly thick or if he actually knew all along and was stringing us along for extra overtime pay. This case is the book's self-contained plot.

The meta-plot is a much more complicated situation that involves the mysteeeerious origins of the magical tradition, a potential Big Bad (or Big Bads), a massive conspiracy, the misbegotten youth of DCI Nightingale and all sorts of stuff that is in no way resolved during the course of this book. It is fun - spell-fights and secret histories are invariably entertaining - but this isn't a mystery, it is epic fantasy with a hat on.

Ben Aaronovitch continues the successful formula of Rivers of London in bringing to the surface the endearing minutae of a city that he clearly adores. He also demonstrates the "real world" problems of a ritual magician trying to have some sort of "normal" life - never is this more aptly demonstrated than Grant having to run the broadband out of the garage, lest the cabling interfere with his home's magical protections. Grant continues to observe his world(s) in a detached way - a narrative voice that lends itself well to dry humor (and fits less neatly with the book's few over-the-top action scenes). Mr. Aaronovitch is, in short, writing the best contemporary occult detective series on the shelf today, and that's by a substantial margin.

My neuroses stem from concerns about the balance of "occult" and "detective". I hasten to add that I am making a very large mountain out of a very small molehill. Moon Over Soho is VERY good. One of PC Grant's core personality traits is his emphasis in approaching everything - even the supernatural - in a modern and rational way. Despite his wizardry, he is, in fact, the consummate detective.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 9 June 2012
It's a truism that everyone has a book in them, or a tune, or something. But doing it twice, successfully, is much harder. Hence the 'Second Album' syndrome that has afflicted so many musicians.
This is Ben Aaronovitches second book in the 'Rivers of London' series, but far from his second effort. There are a lot of Doctor Who and Blakes Seven credits (amongst others) on his Wikipedia page. Which probably helps to explain why it is so good.
The musical allusion is a fair cop, too. Since our protagonist is a cop with a deep background in Jazz - his dad is a jazz legend in his own lifetime. Some very tasty riffs being played on this association in 'Moon over Soho'.
Not to forget that this (like the previous volume 'Rivers of London') is a romp around the capital city with a heavy emphasis on the magical aspects that most people never see - policed by the inhabitants of 'The Folly', the UK Police answer to magical criminals.
The skeleton of the book is sound, but it is the writing and characterisation that seduces. This second volume was at least as enjoyable as the first one. Recommended!
The Third volume is due soon - it's called 'Whispers Under Ground'.
I can't wait.
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In this speedy and welcome follow up to Rivers of London there is a new problem for our hero copper, PC Peter Grant, to investigate. Being an apprentice wizard in a Police department of two ain't easy.
Here the problem appears to be Jazz Vampires and the only expert that may be able to help is Peter's Dad. As always the problem is a little more complex then that, and this is a welcome follow up to Rivers of London. It does not have the originality of Rivers, but it is still a great page turner with a real feel of London and a light and engaging touch.
Very enjoyable indeed and will further enhance the author's well earned reputation.
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on 27 December 2012
The first book in this series marked it as one of the definite urban fantasy sagas to watch, and I'm happy to report that this follow-up does nothing to remove that impression. All the strengths that Aaronovitch brought to his debut effort are still in evidence here, although this one is perhaps a little less self-contained than the last, perhaps because the author is now assured that the premise is a success.

While the series metaplot DOES kick off in full, we still get a meaty case to solve in the book as well, with Peter investigating the deaths of jazz musicians around London. This musical connection ties in with his once-great father, and so we get a better look at Grant's family, as well as a very realistic-reading look at history of the jazz scene in the capital.

While he deals with this (and a new love interest to boot), Peter must also contend with his continuing magical education, the dark past of his mentor Nightingale, and the even more arcane machinations of the London Met. As with the first book, the author makes the protagonist both likeable and believable, with a pleasingly dark streak of humour and a sense of timing that keeps the plot whipping along.

While I didn't enjoy this second case QUITE as much as the first, this is still first-rate modern fantasy with a distinct British flavour and a cast of characters that you actually enjoy spending time with. There's a blatant sequel hook at the end, but with quality like this, you'll gladly go and grab that third installment.
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on 14 May 2013
A refreshing change. Take what always seems to be a American style - wizards, magic, murder etc, that is usually portrayed with the written equivalent of a Hollywood SFX budget- sun and glamour, and put it into post economic boom London, with its rain, fog and unique ethnic and cultural mix. Centre the plot in a police dept nobody understands and wants, with a non-existent budget, a young PC who has just found out he can do magic, and an old (immortal) Chief Inspector. Like a mixture of the Sweeney, Lock Stock, and Shaun of the Dead. If you want classical literature or Lord of the Rings, look elsewhere. If you want a good simple murder plot with a smattering of magic, that will give a quintessential British urban feel and a grin, that will while away a few hours reading, get this book.
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The first book in this series, Rivers of London, positively made me sit up and take notice. This second book, not so much. There were many areas which did not satisfy me. This turns out to be a cliffhanger which will obviously be carried forward into a third book. Aaronovitch ended up one aspect of the story but left the remainder open.

Detective Constable Peter Grant is picking up right after the first book left off by starting to investigate the sudden death of a jazz musician who died immediately after performing. Under ordinary circumstances his death would have been ruled as natural causes except that Dr. Walid knew he wasn't the first jazz musician to die so suddenly lately. Grant is also presented with a case of a man found dead from a terrible mutilation. So how many killers are wandering around Soho using magic as their murder weapon?

This story has a lot of emphasis on sexual behavior. Some of the murder victims, or near victims, concern sexual activity and Peter Grant is involved in a very active sexual relationship. This is a very different direction from the first novel so it came as quite a surprise to me. Probably because it was so different it made me wonder why it was included so I developed my own theory which proved correct. I did not enjoy this book as much as the first because I didn't think the plotting was nearly as strong. The magic aspects were actually not very interesting to me and it seemed to be moving all over the spectrum of unusual creatures and people without really needing to. Some of the explanations didn't work either. The characters of Nightingale and Lesley May don't figure as much in this story and I feel it suffered, principally because of the absence of Nightingale for much of the time. I would not like to begin reading this series with the second book. I think this is one of those series which practically have to be read in order.

The positive aspects for me were that Aaronovitch kept the humor aspect of the novel as a very important part of the overall character of Peter Grant. He also continued to describe the physical landscape of the city of London and Soho in particular in fascinating detail. I'm not sure these things will be enough to tempt me into reading the next novel. 2.5 stars rounded up to 3.
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