Broken Homes by Ben Aaronovitch

Broken Homes

A review by Nalini Haynes

Broken Homes is the fourth Peter Grant book, a comedic series about a none-too-bright but overly inquisitive PC Plod who, having almost completed his probationary period on the streets of London, discovered magic. And that he had magical ability. Now a few books later, Peter is established at The Folly, London’s police department that deals with the magical, supernatural and generally weird. Leslie May, a much brighter and more capable colleague of Peter’s, had her face destroyed by the Faceless Man, their evil nemesis. Now Leslie, officially on semi-permanent medical leave, also lives and works at The Folly, with Nightingale, their boss, Molly, a supernatural entity who could eat them but prefers to dust and cook, and Toby the supernaturally sensitive dog.

A car accident and an apparent suicide are both flagged with supernatural links, so Peter and Leslie are hauled in to investigate across normal precinct lines (both in London and in rural Essex). An architectural monstrosity possibly acting as a magical combine harvester really ramps up the stakes. All the while the demi-mond and outright supernatural elements of London dance in and out of set, being as unreliable and indecipherable as ever.

Ben Aaronovitch is a genuine geek: his knowledge of geek references and ability to insinuate references seamlessly into the narrative in Peter’s voice goes way beyond that of a superficial grab for a particular demographic. I pity the reader who doesn’t have a strong science fiction and fantasy background because they’d miss so much detail and so much of the fun; however, it’s not necessary to be a confirmed geek to read Broken Homes.

Beyond geek culture, Aaronovitch’s knowledge of London’s history, London’s finest and London’s architecture builds a solid, believable world in this urban fantasy, so much so that I was going to look up Erik Stromberg and the Skygarden to see if they were real. (Until I read the Architectural and Historical Notes.) I would love to have a tour of London from Aaronovitch; he makes architecture and history so interesting while creating an incredible sense of place. The only other author I’ve read lately to compare is Jim Butcher who made Chicago sound fascinating, a must-visit, before I read Bruce Mutard’s non-fiction narrative about his visit to Chicago and how DANGEROUS it is!

I’ve reviewed earlier books in this series: Rivers of London, Moon over Soho and Whispers Underground. I’ve enjoyed them all but Broken Homes is definitely the best or equal best of the series with its fast-moving serious plot, comedic narrative voice and encyclopaedic pop- and geek- culture references. This series has an over-arching plot that ends in a cliff-hanger but the plot specific to this novel is resolved before the end. I have some theories about what’s going to happen next.

AM WAITING.

[taps foot]