a review by Nalini Haynes
Whispers Underground by Ben Aaronovitch is an urban fantasy comedy with Harry Potter-esque Peter Grant working as a policeman in contemporary London. I started this review when I only had the flu, before it developed into full-blown pneumonia, but I didn’t quite manage to finish it. Here goes:
Peter Grant works in The Folly, which is a special branch of London Metropolitan Police dealing with the supernatural in present-day London so everyone else can live in denial. Lesley May, his cop-buddy and erst-while lust-interest, had her face ripped off in a previous novel. Although Lesley is still intelligent, more capable than Peter and physically attractive apart from her lack of face, Peter has issues about Lesley’s looks. Peter is shallow and somewhat slow on the uptake, as evidenced by Lesley overtaking Peter in magical studies as well as always having been the better police officer. Although technically on medical leave, Lesley is actively involved in this novel to some extent.
Whispers Underground is a detective policing story told from Peter’s point of view; Peter is summoned to investigate a murder with a hint of magic. Peter meanders around, furthering the investigation partly through luck, partly through his increasing skill and partly with the help of old friends.
Peter, like Aaronovitch, is a bit of a geek fanboi, so his detailed knowledge of architecture and the intricacies of London are woven into the story alongside countless one-liners spoofing geek culture with an emphasis on Lord of the Rings. This is Big Bang Theory without making a mockery of the geeks, although a little more respect for Lesley – and, by default, for all women – would be appreciated. At times Peter has the maturity of a teenager while at other times he’s considerate and thoughtful: I hope that this minor story thread is part of Peter growing up.
The humour ranges from dry one-liners to somewhat slap-stick physical comedy to intricate social comment like the reporting about Asylum seekers eating a snow plow (you have to read it!); thus Aaronovitch successfully casts a net for a wide audience. I’m really enjoying this series. Highly recommended as urban fantasy comedy adventure thriller.
I also expect romance to come later, when Peter gets his head out of that very dark place upon which he sits. Although it’d probably have to be initiated by Lesley.