I love Ben Aaronovitch. Love. I haven't been this excited about a series in quite a while. Harry Dresden, yes, and Mercy Thompson, but I think the only comparison is the sheer happiness each new Harry Potter brought. To which there is a certain irony.
I have kept a List of "my authors" since I started realizing I needed a way to keep track of what I had and hadn't read by writers I liked, a pre-internet attempt to make sure that I didn't miss anything. Probably two-thirds of the writers on The List are solid Good Writers, usually reliable as enjoyable reads. It's the other third that makes life worth living sometimes, the ones that even just a few pages in give me a delighted shiver of discovery. I haven't been this excited about a new-to-me writer in a while. I am very much prone to rereads (comfort books keep me going), but in 2011 over a hundred books that I read were new to me. Of those, a few were bad, some were mediocre, and several were very good. A handful made The List, meaning that I'll be conscientious about getting hold of their books. But none of the new-to-me writers gave me that delighted shiver that Rivers of London did.
Still, one great book does not a favorite make; I've found that out often enough, to my sorrow. Sophomore books can be real let-downs, as a writer turns out to be a one-trick pony, or flaws that were easily overlooked in devouring the first book stand out more sharply in the second (I hate that one). Not here. Not at all here. Moon Over Soho was every bit as much fun as Rivers.
I was going to say something about the click that happens with certain writers' books – but that's kind of the point: there is no click. These books make it hard not to smoothly slip from this world into the author's from the very first paragraph, and to have such a good time while there as to not want to leave. Immersion.
In case you're wondering, anyone who loved the first book is not left in suspense about how Leslie is doing. The first chapter opens with Peter heading to see her. From there the story galumphs off into a murder mystery that falls inside Peter and Nightingale's wheelhouse: a body is in Dr. Walid's custody which could be considered unusual in that, if you have the ability and you bend near to listen, you can hear it playing a jazz tune.
I was my dad's vinyl-wallah: I changed his records while he lounged around drinking tea, and that's how I know my Argo from my Tempo. And it's why, when Dr Walid called me to the morgue to listen to a corpse, I recognized the tune it was playing.
And that, of course, is just the beginning.
Soho is much sexier than Rivers was – there's definitely romance in the air along with the jazz. If this makes you at all suspicious, well done.
The writing is – well, I used the Mia Michaels word gorgeois in my review of Rivers of London, and while I was referring to the voice reading it the word applies to the writing as well. (Though I missed Kobna Holdbrook-Smith here I still heard his voice in my head. The man made an impression.) It is in places genuinely laugh-out-loud funny; suspense is well handled, the characters and story ideas are unique, and I care about the characters. There are quite a lot of authors out there who are fairly predictable: once you get the idea of how they think on paper, it isn't too hard to predict jokes and character reactions. I can't do that with Ben Aaronovitch. Any given paragraph could contain references to Doctor Who, Glenn Miller, Harry Potter, Isaac Newton, or a sixteenth-century historian. Moon Over Soho explores love, familial and romantic, and music, and magic. Intelligent, well-made, and part of the beginning of a beautiful series – I'm very happy about this. Where Ben Aaronovitch goes, I will follow.
(They finally did release the audiobook, with KH-S. Predictably, I loved it.)