An exceptionally fun urban fantasy of the “magic in a modern city” type, as opposed to “my supernatural boyfriend” type, written by a TV writer whose credits include Doctor Who.

Peter Grant is a smartass rookie cop in London whose life changes dramatically when the sole witness to a decapitation murder turns out to be a ghost whom only he can see.

The plot is not exactly strikingly original, but the narration and atmosphere are outstanding. What makes me dislike a lot of urban fantasy is that it’s clearly supposed to be witty, but isn’t. This novel is full of quotable bits of very authentic cynical cop humor, and often made me laugh aloud. I suggest reading the first chapter, if you have an e-reader, to see if you too like the voice.

I can’t vouch for the authenticity of the London setting or of Grant’s West African heritage, but within the novel itself, both are vivid and believable. His London absolutely feels like a real city that you visit for the space of the novel, multicultural and sprawling and full of the little details people who love their hometown know.

The magic and magical beings, again, are not terribly original, but done extremely well, with humor and cleverness. The supporting characters are fun, sketched in bright strokes— I especially liked Grant’s mentor and a family of river spirits. This is a real craftsman’s book.

Note that it contains some gruesome murder scenes, including one with a dead baby. (The dead baby is not graphically described.) They’re not gratuitous and they’re essential to the plot, but as a murder mystery, it’s on the gritty rather than the cozy side. That being said, it’s overall a cheerful, playful book, not one where rocks fall and everyone dies.

I think it would appeal to fans of Steven Brust’s Vlad Taltos series. It also reminded me a bit of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, but Peter Grant is a much more interesting protagonist than Richard Mayhew.

There are two more books in the series, but the first, at least, stands alone. I will definitely read the sequels.

Midnight Riot
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