Thursday, September 27, 2012

Mini-Review: Whispers Underground by Ben Aaronovitch

Whispers Underground is the third book in the Peter Grant urban fantasy series by Ben Aaronovitch (Indiebound, Book Depository, Amazon). These books have essentially become must-reads for me for a variety of reasons – they are short, they are fun, they are well-written, and they offer more than just the standard urban fantasy template, particularly with the police procedural aspect thrown in. And I suppose that being set in London is another big plus since it’s a city both foreign and familiar to me that I find immensely interesting.  

First – ignore the description on the back cover of the book. It’s one of the worst I’ve ever read – it does not in any way reflect actual events and feelings in the book. Yes, there is an American FBI agent and yes she seems to be a conservative Christian. However, that is a tiny tangent and not really much of an issue at all – in fact, she’s rather likeable and I wish the synopsis had not made me predisposed to disliking her. It’s really unfortunate that the publishers did such a disservice to the book with this synopsis.   
In Whispers Underground Peter is called to investigate the murder of an American art student and the son of a US Senator. The murder takes place in a subway tunnel, which of course leads Peter deep into the Underground, often guided by a particularly untrustworthy informant. The murder plot itself is not terribly interesting and the eventual solution is a bit unconvincing. However, the strength of Aaronovitch’s writing is more in the police procedure and the interlacing of the supernatural with the reality we all think we know as told from the point of view of a well-created and out-right interesting main character. In many ways the murder simply doesn’t matter as the main investigation and a few tangents further real the reality of Aaronovitch’s London. 
Whispers Underground continues in the direction that Aaronovitch has set for the series – it may be focused around a single investigation, but further groundwork is laid for growth of the Folly (the team of ‘supernatural’ investigators), for future confrontation with a particularly nasty bad guy, growth of Peter and Leslie’s (potential?) relationship, and more hints of the wider world of magic.  
In short, Whispers Underground is another great installment in the Peter Grant series. It may not be the greatest of the series, but it’s more than good enough to keep me coming back for more.  
And on a separate point, I’m quite happy that Del Rey has finally decided to abandon the white-washed covers of the first two books.


redhead said...

I've been enjoying this series, and hope to get a copy of this 3rd book soon. I'm rarely interested in police procedurals, and I'm not super into Urban Fantasy, but i can't get enough of Ben Aaronovitch! really goes to show that if it's an excellent book, the genre or subgenre doesn't matter.

Sascha Walter said...

Unfortunately I have to agree with Neth on this one. I had higher hopes for it but when I was finished with it, it was like a meal where the portion was slightly too small. The ravenous hunger is gone but there is still an appetite left, You had something nice but somehow it wasn't entirely satisfying. That is the analogy I can think of.
The police procedural was good, the characters interesting, but the main ingredient, the crime mystery, was lacking in substance.

Though I will still get book number 4, since the overall story arch and the main protagonists are still interesting.


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