MOON OVER SOHO
By Ben Aaronovitch
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
The second novel in Ben Aaronovitch's Rivers of London series, Moon over Soho, continues the adventures of apprentice magician and policeman Peter Grant while also significantly expanding the scope of the series. While Rivers of London (a.k.a. Midnight Riot) served to introduce readers to the character, his world, and the magic system, Moon over Soho serves to send Grant on another mission and set in motion an overarching mystery that will continue beyond the boundaries of this novel.
Many of the characters from the first book are relegated to background roles or mentions, with Grant's friend Lesley May off page to recover from the injuries she sustained in the course of the first novel and Nightingale mostly having his own adventure, letting the book focus on Grant as he interfaces with the non-magical departments of the London constabulary as they try to solve a murder that occurred in a basement lavatory of the famed Groucho Club. Aaronovitch also incorporates Grant's father's career as a jazz musician as the investigation opens with ties to London's jazz music scene, dating back to the 1940s.
Although Aaronovitch refers back to the events of Rivers of London, he does so in a natural way. The final sequence of that novel impacted his characters' lives and careers, as well as the city of London and those impacts are felt and referred to, but they don't overwhelm the action in Moon over Soho. Similarly, although Grant refers to many of the characters who he interacted with in the first novel, Aaronovitch has expanded his circle. This is a London populated by a variety of people, both magical and mundane, and it feels like a vibrant, living city.
Although Grant's main case is focuses on the deaths in the London music community, there are frequent references to Nightingale's own investigations which only occasionally intersects Grants investigations, however when it does it has a major impact on Grant. In addition, Aaronovitch introduces an overarching mystery in this volume concerning a faceless man and his followers that will carry through into future volumes of the series. His London is not only vibrant, but he has also removed the episodic nature of writing standalone mysteries with this inclusion.
Grant remains an appealing character, but he doesn't always make the most intelligent choices, especially in his personal life. His relationship with Simone, the mistress of one of the murder victims, raises red flags with the reader while Grant doesn't seem to see anything unprofessional with it. Although this serves to undermine Grant's intelligence as a police officer, it does make him more human, since it allows Aaronovitch to show his faults.
The pacing of Moon over Soho is a little slow, but it allows Aaronovitch to build his characters, his magic system, and his world. The novel also gives hints about the breadth of the world that Aaronovitch has in mind and will reveal in his subsequent novels. The interplay between the current murder case and the on-going case further slows the action, at the same time giving the feeling that Aaronovitch is loading the novel with red herrings. In any event, in addition to being an enjoyable novel in its own right, Moon over Soho gives the reader a sense of anticipation for future novels.
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