By Ben Aaronovitch



180pp/$16.99/June 2019

The October Man
Cover by Stephen Walter

Reviewed by Steven H Silver

With several Peter Grant novels under his belt, Ben Aaronovitch has found ways to expand the word of the Rivers of London by using short stories and novellas to explore areas where Grant hasn't gone. Although the first novella, The Furthest Station, does follow Grant and his regular crew, the second novella, The October Man, is set in and around Trier, Germany and follows Grant's counterpart, Tobias Winter, in his investigation into a murder.

When a man is discovered dead in the middle of a vineyard outside of Trier, Winter is called in to figure out of magic was involved, a likely conclusion since the man is covered in a fast growing strain of noble rot, a grey fungus that can not only destroy grapes, but, if handled properly, can improve the wine made from the grapes. Partnered with Vanessa Sommer, Winter is able to explain the rules of magic to the reader and his new partner throughout the book.

The change in viewpoint allows Aaronovich to explore the way his magical world works from a different perspective. Some of Winter's terminology differs from the language used by Grant and Winter's opinions of Nightingale and the Folly are more negative, naturally enough. Presenting magic in this new manner provides an alternative vision of magic than the one Grant offers in most of the works, although it is clearly describing the same forces. Winter's director is involved with his training, but throughout the course of The October Man, she is even more off-stage than Nightingale usually is.

The October Man includes a run-down of a variety of different types of supernatural beings, many of whom have not previously appeared in Aaronovich's novels, although he does remain true to the series titles, Rivers of London, by including river deities, most notably Kelly, representing the Kyll River. Just as Winter has his own ideas about the way his English counterparts work, so, too, do Kelly and Morgane, the juvenile goddess of the Mosel River, have opinions of the Rivers of London. While most of the Peter Grant series give a theoretically holistic view of magic in the world Aaronovitch has created, Winter, Sommer, Kelly, and Morgane demonstrate that magic is not a monolithic as Grant's memoirs would have people believe.

Winter's investigation leads to a wide exploration of the area around Trier. The focus begins on Stracker vineyard, where the body was found, but quickly grows to include a social club in Trier, the possibility of supernatural beings, a thirty-year old missing person's case, and the love life of the goddess of the Kyll River. As with the Grant novels, Aaronovitch manages to fit quite a bit into his story, the fact that it is only novella length makes how much he can offer even more astounding.

The October Man is a a worthwhile addition to the Peter Grant books, offering a fresh perspective on the supernatural elements that have become commonplace in Grant's re-telling of his career. The fact that Aaronovitch includes a third-party look at what is happening in London with Grant, Nightingale, and their auxiliary characters without the emotional attachment that the Grant novels have, further enlarges the world and offers a new look at just about everything covered in the previous novels. At the same time, The October Man stands on its own, introducing Tobias Winter and Vanessa Sommer in a murder mystery that comes to a reasonably neat conclusion while offering all the information the reader needs about the supernatural world as it is seen in Germany.

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