Tag Archives: DCI Thomas Nightingale

Aaronovitch, Ben: Whispers Underground (Rivers of London III) (2012)

whispers underground
I love this German cover, but have no idea who the cover artist is.

Once again Ben Aaronovitch has wowed the market, this time with Whispers Underground. And once again he wowed me.

“Back in the summer I’d made the mistake of telling my mum what I did for a living. Not the police bit, which of course she already knew about having been at my graduation from Hendon, but the stuff about me working for the branch of the Met that dealt with the supernatural. My mum translated this in her head to ‘witchfinder’, which was good because my mum, like most West Africans, considered witchfinding a more respectable profession than policeman.”

By coincidence Ben Aaronovitch and Peter Grant happen to have gone to the same comprehensive: Achland Burghley School. It just so happens that another student at that school has heard of Peter’s witchyness and asks him to come look at a ghost she has found.

Young Abigail Kamara is a delightful 13-year-old. She has all the rebelliousness of a girl turned teenager and a desire to show herself as more adult than she is. But trying that out on Peter just won’t work because she needs Peter way more than he needs here. His growing up on the same estate as Abigail probably also makes him less susceptible to Abigail’s “tantrums”. But one thing is for sure. If Abigail continues on the route she is on today she is going to turn into a version of Peter’s mom when she grows up. She is one fierce kid.

Railway lines under Acland Burghley School
© Copyright Mike Quinn and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Peter and Lesley go with Abigail and, what do you know, there they see the ghost – a young white kid getting ready to spray some graffiti on the wall of the tunnel. They watch him get hit by the train then start the whole thing over again.

Lesley is still in the Folly and learning how to live with the face that fell off. Both she and Peter get a lesson in seeing people for who they are rather than how they look by Zachary Palmer, a character that turns up in Whispers Underground. That would be a wonderful lesson for me to be able to learn.

At 0300 one morning DI Miriam Stephanopolous calls Peter because of a murder that seems a bit off at Baker Street Underground Station. (Yes, the same Baker Street that Sherlock Holmes lived on.)

Baker Street underground station
Baker Street underground station
Photograph by Alun Palmer

When Peter goes into the tunnel where the body was hit by the train he discovers a bit of magical pottery in the pool of blood. When it turns out the victim is James Gallagher, the son of an US Senator, the British police have an international incident on their hands.

As is only natural when a body is found on the tracks, the British Transport Police turn up and give us a look at their responsibilities through Kamar – one of their officers. In fact, as Whispers Underground moves along we see that Peter and Kamar find it in themselves to put all inter-departmental rivalries aside and work together toward a solution to James’ murder.

DCI Seawoll makes Peter a part of the Belgravia murder squad so he can keep an eye on him. You might remember both Seawoll and the reason why he is a bit wary of Peter from reading Moon Over Soho. One of DCI Seawoll’s quirks is that he does not want the word “Magic” used anywhere in his vicinity. He knows it is there but he prefers that Peter and Lesley use words like “oddities” instead. It is kind of funny how Seawoll is like the rest of us in denying what is right in front of our faces. In fact, I think this might be one of the great appeals of British literature. They tend to make their characters human rather than glossed up versions of ourselves.

The fascinating thing about large cities is the many “forgotten” parts of them that work as a breeding ground for an author’s fantasy and probably also for the alternate parts of society that need a place to stay. As Peter and Kamar dig into this forgotten world Kamar comes to realise that the BTP might have overlooked certain parts of the underground system.

In their hunt for The Faceless Man Lesley and Peter are sent to Shakespeare Tower at the Barbican to interview a person DCI Nightingale suspects was a member of the Little Crocodiles (a Cambridge dining club).

File:Barbican towers.jpg
Barbican towers / Shakespeare Tower in centre
Photographer: Riodamascus

Being part of The Faceless Man’s gang can be dangerous for a person’s health. But you do not necessarily have to be part of his crew to get hurt, and the methods Faceless uses to keep his identity a secret are generally quite brutal – demon-traps come to mind. I would certainly think twice before joining him in his games. Part of this is because The Faceless Man comes across as amoral rather than sociopathic. That makes him completely unpredictable in a rather frightening manner.

Previously I have stated that Peter is my favorite character. He still is, but in a close second comes the dog Toby. Toby and Molly’s relationship is hilarious. The things she is teaching him to do!!!! A nutty dog for a nutty place like the Folly.

In his usual manner, Aaronovitch managed to prod my sense of the absurd. His sense of humor is perfect. I love it when an author manages to tickle my funny-bone and please my desire for action. Maybe this is why my favorite authors tend to be British. They have a sense of timing that I have not found anywhere else. Ben Aaronovitch handles the dark side of humanity well, well enough that I was unavailable to my family while reading Whispers Underground. I sometimes pity my family for having a book addict for mother and wife.


  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Gollancz (4 Oct 2012)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 0575097663
  • ISBN-13: 978-0575097667

My review of Rivers of London and Moon over Soho

Aaronovitch, Ben: Rivers of London (US: Midnight Riot) (Rivers of London I) (2011)

Cover artist “Rivers of London”: Stephen Walter
Cover artist “Midnight Riot”:

Before starting on the Peter Grant series – mystery books – Ben Aaronovitch was busy in the writing business. He has been involved in screenwriting, audiodramas, television-series, short stories and spin-off novels. While being mainly an author, Aaronovitch has also had the great pleasure (as so many other writers) of supporting his writing habit with non-writing jobs.

On his blog he states that the Peter Grant series was in part influenced by these sources:

Rivers of London

When Peter Grant gets out of being assigned to the Case Progression Unit by being sent to Chief Inspector Nightingale, he “left in a hurry before he could change his mind, but I want to make it clear that at no point did I break into a skip.” Brits. Gotta love them.

What Peter discovers when he gets to DCI Nightingale is that magic does exist and so does everything else paranormal literature delves into. His and DCI Nightingdale’s job (being the only representatives of that side of life) is to regulate the super-natural community, making sure they uphold the laws.

Rivers of London is at heart a mystery. A serial-killer is on the loose making use of magic in her/his/its killings. It is vital that Nightingdale and the rest of the Met find the serial-killer before more people are found without their faces. Peter has his chance at being a detective at the same time that he has to negotiate peace between the lower and upper sides of the Thames (mother and father Thames). His baptism into the super-natural community is at times frightening for him and delightful for us.

While a mystery with death and mayhem, Rivers of London is a light-hearted novel. There is plenty of humor and an irreverent look at society that I enjoy.

Thus far, Rivers of London is the only book in the series that I have read. I do believe I am going to read the next one as well. Aaronovitch manages to balance humor and action in true British style. I like Peter Grant’s distracted manner, something that gives us insight into his character but also into the city of London.

Fanart by DeaDiscordia
Upper left: Beverley Brook, “daughter” of Mama Thames and goddess of a small river in South London
Bottom left: Police Constable Lesley May
Centre: Police Constable Peter Grant
Upper right: Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale, head of the Folly and the last officially sanctioned English Wizard.
Bottom right: Molly; The Folly’s domestic helper.