by Ben Aaronovitch



120pp/£8.99/September 2017

The Furthest Station

Patrick Knowles

Reviewed by Steven H Silver

In 2017, after several novels and two graphic novels describing the adventures of Peter Grant, Ben Aaronovitch published The Furthest Station, the first novella to details one of Grant's cases. Returning to London after the events described in Foxglove Summer, the book picks up with the familiar characters of Grant, Nightingale, Abigail, and Jaget Kumar as they are drawn into an investigation of ghosts appearing on the London Underground. With references to earlier adventures, the novella has few tie-ins to the overarching storyline regarding Grant's relationships with Lesley and Beverley.

The team is called in when ghosts begin to appear during the morning commute. The case is made more difficult when they discover that the ghosts only appear for a few moments and the witnesses' memories of the encounter fade within moments, to the extent that even in the middle of an interview, the witnesses will suddenly have no recollection of the encounter. With Jaget as their guide, Grant's team tries to learn what is going on, resulting in brief encounters with a variety of ghosts from different historical periods. Although Grant does a lot of the work himself, he also relies more heavily on Abigail than previously. She has seemed to age since earlier appearances and her magical abilities and knowledge of the supernatural has also increased by leaps and bounds, occasionally eclipsing Peter's. Similarly, she has completely won over Nightingale in a manner which reveals a jealous streak in Peter.

Having dealt with a kidnapping in his previous adventure, the ghostly train passengers eventually lead Grant to another kidnapping victim and Grant must work with yet another new police force to resolve the case. The two stories form an interesting juxtaposition because although the crime is the same, Grant's way of dealing with it is different. In Foxglove Summer, Grant ws a visiting police officer who had a secondary role in the investigation into the disappearance of two young girls. In The Furthest Station, he is leading the team of investigators on semi-familiar territory and looking for an adult. Although the supernatural is involved in both cases, the manner of its involvement and the motives are completely different, although as Grant notes, knowing motives are nice, but non-essential.

The novella length means Aaronovitch doesn't have much time to pad out the text, so the story is focused on the case with some additional look at Grant's relationships with Nightingale and Abigail. Continuing in the vein of the previous novel (in internal chronological order), Aaronovitch continues to deescalate the tension of the story about the Faceless Man and Lesley's betrayal, which makes The Furthest Station, a stand-alone novel that can be easily used to introduce new readers to the series in a relatively low-stakes manner. The novella does hit on all of the strengths that are common to the Rivers of London novels: the police procedural aspects, Grant's education in the way the supernatural works, and his interactions with the public.

The Furthest Station offers stand-alone entry into the Rivers of London sequence that includes all of the elements that define the series without quite tying into the largest story arcs, allowing for a quick dip into the world of Peter Grant without the need to remember the events of the previous novels, comics, or short stories. Aaronovitch's characters are likeable and the reader can enjoy spending time in their company along with a tight mystery populated by ghosts who are trying to do the right thing.

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