Whispers Under Ground by Ben Aaronovitch

I was so very eager to get back into the London of Peter Grant. Aaronovitch had wowed me with both Rivers of London and Moon Over Soho, in fact the quality grew from the first part to the sequel. So, my expectation was high that Whispers Under Ground would take the quality a step further and become my favourite entry in the Peter Grant series. It was fed even further by a delay in the books release. Sadly, that title still goes to the brilliant Moon Over Soho, but Whispers Under Ground is still a great book.

One of the things I love about the series is that it holds that spark that is found within the rebooted Dotor Who series and Torchwood. It’s Urban Fantasy at its gritty and grimy best. In the first part Aaronovitch explored the rivers that flow through our capital and then followed it up by focusing on Soho, now of course we head Underground to meet bizarre creatures and witness plenty of magic.

The story opens as Peter investigates a murder on an Underground tube station. As he explores the immediate area he finds a possible murder weapon – a shard of pottery – and as he approaches it he experiences the signature of magic – vestigia. For those who have been with Peter since the first book this third iteration is like coming home. We have Peter’s charm and dry humour, Nightingale is back and as mysterious as ever but of course we now have Leslie out in the field… behind a mask, of course.

This entry to the series is definitely more crime than fantasy as we see Peter doing some actual “proper” police work rather than just dealing with the “weird shit”. Fear not, there’s still plenty of weird shit going on and most of that is brought by the supporting cast.

Much of the book takes place underneath London and we watch as Peter sloshes through undesirable waters in search of the truth behind the murder. This wouldn’t be a Peter Grant novel without strange takes on fantasy tropes appearing, one which I will keep as a pleasant secret for you, but the other is something I hope to see more explored in future parts. This is the Fae. When meeting the character to happens to have Fae blood in his veins things get a lot more interesting.

The Faceless man from previous books takes a slight back seat but still features here and that of course feeds into an overarching story. According to Ben himself he is writing many more parts to the story and I for one am very excited.

I hoped this book would raise the bar once again, but to be honest it was probably the most tame of the three stories for me and I wanted a little more bonkers. The ending was a little anticlimactic and while I enjoy the humour injected this part seemed to be a little too light hearted. Compared to the drama and suspense of the first two books, Whispers Under Ground falls a bit flat. Having said that, it’s still a great read and fans won’t be disappointed.

In fact the reason I still gave the book the four shiny stars you see below is because of the world that Aaronovitch has created. I certainly see London in a different way and am constantly enthralled and intrigued by the minutiae of Ben’s imagination. This is one of those books that by reviewing it in depth can reveal too much of the plot leaving Ben’s creations as less of a surprise and more of an expectation. Hence why my review is quite bare bones. If you haven’t read the first two books, then you are mad.

Published by Gollancz. This book was kindly sent by the publisher for review.

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