WHISPERS UNDERGROUND by Aaronovitch

indexThe third (and last so far) of the Rivers of London series featuring wizard-in-training Peter Grant, London constable and all around nice guy, Nightingale, his master and mentor and boss in their two-man police department; Leslie, his wounded partner; and Mollie the strange we’re-not-sure-if-she-is-human-or-maybe-a-vampire housekeeper at the Nightingale residence.

We meet again some of the river goddesses and police personalities from the previous books, and this time, the mystery is a guy stabbed to death in the subway.  There are elements of vestigium (that’s those traces of magic) around the guy and the pottery shard in his back, which is the murder weapon, so the ‘special’ force is called in to help work the case.

The roommate of the murdered man is a crazy dude (I couldn’t help picturing Rhys Ilfans as Hugh Grant’s goofy roommate in Notting Hill movie all the time I read this), who is a dem-fae.  His father was a fairy.  But some of the demimonde call him a goblin, but he refuses to explain what that might be, claiming that our protagonists have no idea about anything.

Investigation takes our protagonists deep into the London subway underground tunnels, where they look for secret entrances and passageways, get shot at, end up in the sewage tunnels, and get washed away from water drainage.  They also learn of a population living below ground for a couple of hundred years, the Quiet People, or the Whisperers, who have a thriving pig industry, using its wastes to make an unbreakable pottery, unbreakable because of the magic within it.

I love the writing, and the humor, and the perspective:

When asked about what he actually does, he replies:  That depends on how much you want to know, boss.   “What are my options?” she asked.  “Meaningless euphemisms at one end and your full-on Unseen University at the other”, I said.

Perhaps an homage to the late Terry Pratchett.  I hope so.

The Metropolitan Police has a very straightforward approach to murder investigations, not for them the detective’s gut instinct or the intricate logical deductions of the sleuth savant.  No, what the Met likes to do is throw a shitload of manpower at the problem and run down every single possible lead until it is exhausted, the murderer is caught or the senior investigating office dies of old age.   As a result, murder investigations are conducted not by quirky Detective Inspectors with drink/relationship/mental problems but by a bunch of frighteningly ambitious Detective Constables in the first mad flush of their careers.

And

There was a ye olde carriage lamp mounted next to the front door just to show that money can’t buy you taste.

And

It was a good plan and like all plans since the dawn of time, this would fail to survive contact with real life.

Yeah.  Another one of those books with literary allusions, and a smart mouth.  I like that in a book.  There are also some nice historical notes on building the London subway tunnels.

Building the tunnels in the early days.

Building the tunnels in the early days.

Need I explain what this is?

tunnel4

Water drainage

Water drainage

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