This is part two in my series – Friday at the Folly. The Folly is the name of the home of the magical branch of the Metropolitan police in Ben Aaronovitch’s series Rivers of London. Rivers of London is by far one of my favourite series of all time and when a group of bookish buddies decided to read it together I had to jump at the chance to revisit it. I have decided to note down my thoughts as I re-read it and post them in a discussion type post.
If you are interesting in following along you can find my Introduction to the re-read project as well as the reading order I will be undertaking etc on my Rivers of London Page.
Title: Moon over Soho
Author: Ben Aaronovich
Series: Rivers of London #2
The song. That’s what London constable and sorcerer’s apprentice Peter Grant first notices when he examines the corpse of Cyrus Wilkins, part-time jazz drummer and full-time accountant, who dropped dead of a heart attack while playing a gig at Soho’s 606 Club. The notes of the old jazz standard are rising from the body—a sure sign that something about the man’s death was not at all natural but instead supernatural.
Body and soul. They’re also what Peter will risk as he investigates a pattern of similar deaths in and around Soho. With the help of his superior officer, Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale, the last registered wizard in England, and the assistance of beautiful jazz aficionado Simone Fitzwilliam, Peter will uncover a deadly magical menace—one that leads right to his own doorstep and to the squandered promise of a young jazz musician: a talented trumpet player named Richard “Lord” Grant—otherwise known as Peter’s dear old dad.
My Spoiler Free Thoughts
This is one of my favourites of the series. It keeps the fun and chatty narrative from book one but we learn a lot more about Peter, his life outside being a police officer and his family. In particular his Dad, Richard "Lord" Grant and the occasionally fraught relationship Peter has with him, and how Richards music, Jazz, played a roll in Peter’s life. I loved that one of the cases in this book revolved around London’s Jazz scene and music in general.
Again Peter really cant seem to keep himself out of trouble in this one but also seems to escape by the skin of his teeth. Even though Nightingale isn’t as active in this one we still get all his scathing remarks and we get plenty of sass from Dr Walid too. We also get all those fun facts and British humour that I adored about book one. This one also gets a bit darker with some creepy concepts, menacing new members of the demimonde discovered and a new villain introduced, and the ending!!!!
My Spoiler filled Thoughts
We really do jump straight back into where book one left off and are right into confronting what happened to Lesley at the end of book one. It really sets the tone for this book. We have both Lesley and nightingales recovery and the frustration that brings to both them and Peter who has to try and cope without them. You can really feel Peter’s awkwardness of not knowing what to say, trying not to feel guilty for dragging Lesley into the world of magic with him and Lesley’s frustration with happened to her. It is a really powerful start. It really reworks Lesley and Peter’s relationship which was very much Peter chasing after her, to her needing his friendship and support and Peter really trying to step up to be that person. It is a really nice and genuine development to the relationships. I love the communication between them even via the ipad text to speech function as they fall back into that friendly pattern of banter so easily despite all the undercurrent of emotion.
Peter has a new case and its the mysterious death of Jazz musicians. I like the initial scene in the morgue when they initially hear the Vestigia of body and soul playing. I really like how it links back to Peters description of how magic initially felt to him in book one. It also introduces the concept of Signare which is just such a cool concept that you can tell the individual wizard by the Vestigia of there personal magic. Huge props to AAaonovich for not having Peter rush through his magical study. Peter is very slow at learning all the forma and we actively see him practicing and failing and even getting a little bored and lacking discipline at times. Peter isn’t naturally talented, he needs to put in the hard work and that is really refreshing to see.
Its not all doom and gloom though we still have a very hearty dose of humour and pop-culture references that were present in Rivers of London.
“The clever people at CERN are smashing particles together in the hope that Doctor Who will turn up and tell them to stop”
And again a strong Scientific approach from Peter. We get peters invention of the Vestigia SI unit – the YAP – which is the volume of bark Toby makes in the presence of vestigia and Peter’s want to detect and quantify what he is felling. I love it. My science brain would do the exact same thing.
I like how personal this case is to we get to learn a lot more about his dad and there relationship, what Jazz means to Peter’s family. When Peter meets the irregulars (the victims band mates) I just fell in love with them they are such a fun bunch, they just full on go along with Peter and his investigation no questions asked. Loved the Scot declaring Peter was the Jazz Police and it was fun seeing Peter through the name “Lord” Grant around in reference to his father. It really showed that his Dad was someone before drugs ended his career. We get some really lovely scenes of Peter with his family and it makes me feel we really get to know Peter a lot more in this book.
I will admit despite reading this several times I completely forgot about the second investigation in this book. The case of the Vagina dentata kiiller. Getting to see more of Stephanopolous is awesome. I love how she treats Peter she obvoiusly likes him as a person but thinks he is shit at his job and I do like the banter they have because of that. I like that this leads us to learning a bit more about the demi-monde and the various types of people that are out there that Peter didn’t know about.
This is a huge section which covers so much. We get so much background into the Folly, Nightingale and Molly! We meet Dr Postmartin the Folly’s archivist which is interesting as we get a little more insight into the network of the Folly and of Nightingales past. Getting to visit Nightingales school was bitter sweet. The events of the war and Ettesburg are not fully explored but we get a real sense of the devastation that was caused. Nightingale taking the time to carve all the names to be hung on the wall knowing the school would not be occupied again. There is just something so sad and poignant about that.
That is such a juxtoposition to the complete mania that is Ash being stabbed and Peter stealing an ambulance. I love the abrupt pace change. It makes you have the feeling that all logic has gone out of the window and that Peter was in Panic mode. We get to learn a bit more about the power of Mama Thames though. The rule of going under the water three times before she claims you is really interesting, and the brief chat with Chelsea and Effra which we have only glimpsed before. I do feel Peter got off very light in the fall out from it all. The battle between Peter and Tyburn seems like it is going to be a really interesting one, there is a lot of power on Tyburn’s side and its interesting to see how long Peter can survive before she overwhelms him. Its curious that Peter all but forgot about Beverly Brook despite her being a potential love interest. I think Aaronovich just hasn’t quiet decided who is Peter’s love interest between Bev and Lesley. This is even more interesting when Simone is thrown in.
She is such an interesting character. She starts off so small, just the mistress of the first Jazz death but then grows more and more. The cake with Peter, followed by random rooftop sexcapades I really like how she sort of slowly creeps up into being one of the main characters of the book. She is also really unusual, I really don’t see what Peter sees in her as he doesn’t really seem to know all that much about her but just seems to fall into this easy relationship with her, where his life and investigations just seem to melt away.
“Jazz vampires,’ said Stephanopoulos.
‘I wish I hadn’t started calling them that,’ I said.”
I love the concept of Jazz vampires. It made me giggle so much. Its really unique, an immortal being that subsists off of the feelings and emotions of music. That pull the ma I also like the various reactions Peter gets. Nightingale and Dr Walid have such different approaches to Peter’s thinking, Walid is just as scientifically minded and runs away with ideas of how to test things, new test subjects and expanding there knowledge of Magic while nightingale wants Peter to focus and learn before running off and experimenting. It makes for a really interesting read as I am more on DR Walid’s side. I want to know how and why
We actually get to learn how Molly came to the Folly. Its such a strange and sad tale. It explains why she is so attached to Nightingale too. I like how smoothly the two cases Peter is working on meld together. Its also when it starts to get a little dark. The initial tale of the 1970s magician and the head of Larry the Lark is creepy, then we fall into the manic dash across town chasing the pale lady and her downfall which was jsut so well written. Again its one of those swift change in pacing that really just pulls you in. you go from Peter chatting casually to him full out pelting himself at the problem, fighting stuggling to then it crashing down around him as the Pale lady falls to her death and the abrupt halt to it all that really makes your heart beat as fast a Peter’s. I just find these switches in gear so immersive, I am right there with Peter and its awesome.
Then the discovery of the head in the club and the dead chimera is creepy and dark and again just changes the tone. The demon traps sound horrifying and the fact that Nightingale would let Peter in to see the devastation makes it almost worse. It’s disturbing and creepy in the best way as it opens up so many questions and gives us a new villain. This mysterious magician that has been training others over the years and how the Folly will combat that.
Chapter 12- end
Just like the rest of the book this section has such a mix of moments. Lesley getting her voice back and being able to talk to Peter, I love that he is still so reliant on her to be a good police officer and she still calls him out on it. Is such a positive moment. I really love Lesley as a character and I am glad we are getting to see her recovery, how she is dealing with it and how Peter is dealing with it. It s a really interesting angle to view it from.
The moment with Simone meeting Peter’s mum and his mum revealing she went after his dad is just shocking. The crashing realisation that Simone is a Jazz vampire is just such a brilliant gasp moment and then how Peter reasons it all out of her playing the music, keeping her relaxed getting the full story of how she became a jazz vampire is just a really slow yet beautiful scene. Its really kind of sad when we realise that I don’t think the “three sisters” really ever knew what they had become and what they were doing. The fact that Peter tries to keep them safe, protecting them from the both Nightingales solution and the “Faceless Man”‘s enticement just makes me love him even more as a character. The fact that he is willing to own up to his own prejudices to nightingale in order to challenge nightingales is also awesome.
We also get Peter’s first magic duel and he is utterly crap! The fact that he is outmatched and is saved by pure luck and the arrival of the cavalry is awesome. It sets up the Faceless Man as such a powerful adversary for the Folly. To have someone powerful but also unknown is kinda fun. And again it completly avoids that trope of the apprentice suddenly becoming all powerful at the right moment. Peter runs purely on luck and I love it.
The end for the “sisters” is so sad and again bitter sweet. The beautiful picture they try to paint in there last moments reliving the last moments of there true lives is just so moving. I like that Peter lingered on it. That leading to the wrap up with him and his dad, his dad getting music back, Peter’s surprise and joy at learning his dad has been clean for months without him realising its just such a nice moment between them.
“‘Fuck me,’ I said. ‘You can do magic.'”
I love that this is the last line of the book. Its just such an awesome way to end it. Its the perfect blend of satisfying ending and small little cliff-hanger hint of what comes next. Leslie can do magic!