I’d describe Rivers of London, the first in a three-book series of the same name, as The Bill meets Harry Potter. It tells the story of DC Peter Grant, a young policeman who is recruited to the Metropolitan Police Service division that deals with magic and the supernatural and becomes the first English apprentice wizard in 70 years. DC Grant has to grapple with the personification of the Thames and its tributaries as real London characters in order to diffuse a potential bruck-up between Mother and Father Thames, interrogate ghosts as potential witnesses to a string of strange murders, and, at one stage, actually time-travel through centuries of London time to chase a ghostly villain.
Yes, you read all that correctly. For some reason, I kept wondering what the cast of New Tricks (aka the greatest cop show ever made) would do if confronted with these extra policing pressures. I decided that Brian would totally buy into it, Gerry would decide it was Political Correctness Gone Mad, and Jack would begrudgingly knuckle down and get on with it, yet prove particularly adept at the ghostly interrogation. This, and frequent spontaneous renditions of Boney M’s Rivers of Babylon prompted by the book’s title, plagued my mind while reading this novel.
However, if you can suspend belief, then it is an entertaining read. I particularly enjoyed the fact that the action takes place around familiar London locations (hence why it is classified as an ‘urban fantasy’ novel, as a fantastic story in an urban rather than a fictitious setting, fact fans) and is peppered with lots of interesting stories from London’s history. The only aspect of the book I slightly struggled with was the occasional character stereotyping, for example the Nigerian housewife or the London ‘rude gals’. It wasn’t exactly offensive, just somehow unconvincing.
But this is still a good read. Not life-changing, but thoroughly enjoyable. Just don’t wander around St Paul’s Church in Covent Garden after dark. Trust me.