WHISPERS UNDER GROUND
By Ben Aaronovitch
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
Peter Grant's third outing comes in Ben Aaronovitch's novel Whispers Under Ground when he discovers that despite everything he has learned from Nightingale in the year since the events in Rivers of London, that there are more things in heaven and Earth than dreamt of in his philosophy, or rather under the Earth. The events of the novel are kicked off when a young art student, the son of an American Senator, is stabbed to death in the Baker Street underground station.
Grant's investigation teams him back up with Lesley May, who was mostly missing from the previous novel, as well as DI Stephanopoulos and DCI Alexander Seawoll as he finds himself seconded to a murder team for the investigation. The victim's father's identity adds an FBI agent, Kimberly Reynolds into the mix and Grant must not only conduct his investigation, but also try to keep the magical aspect of his job secret from Reynolds.
Aaronovitch continues to expand his world for both his readers and Grant. With the introduction of the idea of the fae and half-fae as well as a race co-living with the humans of London. Naturally the murder of James Gallagher involves not only magic, but also the newly described magical races. Although Nightingale, Grant's principal, is more involved in this case than he was in Moon over Soho, Grant's investigation is mostly with Lesley, who is even more of a novice when it comes to magic than he is, so much of his initial knowledge comes from the Zack Parker, Gallagher's roommate, a suspect in Gallagher's killer, and someone who is clearly less than reliable in his statements.
While the majority of the novel focuses on the search for James Gallagher's murderer, Aaronovitch also continues the search for the Faceless Man, a magician who attacked Grant in the prior novel. While most of that investigation is carried out by Nightingale, Grant and May also spend some time working on it and occasionally have to split their attention between the two cases. While the Gallagher murder case moves with some rapidity, the Faceless Man inquiry creeps along more slowly, making little, but important progress.
The chapter titles in Whispers Under Ground provide a map for Grant's movements throughout London, and he covers quite a bit of ground in this novel, allowing Aaronovitch to not only show a vibrant and varied city, but also to provide historical background for his setting. The city of London is very much a part of his novels as the magic and characters he focuses his attention on and even the different tube stations Grant and his companions visit are depicted differently.
The pacing of Whispers Under Ground still feels a little slow as Aaronovitch is juggling his multiple story lines, characterization, and providing background information. However, his method of writing also means he is creating a denser and more satisfying world for his characters and readers. Aaronovitch has created an intriguing world and filled it with interesting characters. His mysteries are offered fairly, giving the readers the opportunity to figure out who committed the crime before Grant reveals the solution, but in many ways the crime is secondary to the interactions between Grant and his support cast.
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