I don’t tend to write book reviews these days. A large part of that is because I’m now part of the industry and as a result have lost a little bit of objectivity. I know how much effort goes into a book, I know the anguish in trying to make a book all it can be, and as a result I empathise.
But I also unpick as I read. Too often I’m analysing and editing another person’s book as if it were my own. I’d move that scene forward, I don’t see the point of that character. It’s not that I think myself a better writer, I’ve learnt much from seeing how other authors do things, it’s just that writerly eye is almost always on, knowing how the magic on the page is constructed.
So it’s a joy when a book comes along that makes me switch all that off, just read and leave the analysis for later.  Ben Aaronovitch’s Peter Grant books are just that, a pure joy to read.

Broken Homes is the latest book in the series that started with Rivers of London. I’d sum them up by saying they are The Bill meets the X-Files with maybe a splash of Harry Potter and Neverwhere. Peter is a member of the ‘X-Files’ division of the Metropolitan Police force and apprentice magic user. Each book follows a major supernatural crime, with an overarching story linking the books together. As a formula for constructing a series, it’s close to The Dresden Files, although these are very different books in terms of tone and voice.
What makes the Peter Grant books so great in my opinion is the detail. It’s very much police procedural, but the details give the story a credibility that juxtaposes nicely with the fantastical elements. There’s also a lot of research that goes into these books. Real world locations play a big part in the series and the real world history behind them sometimes seems more fantastical than the novels themselves. As a result it paints a very rich London.
It’s also why the beginning of Broken Homes, the fourth book in the ongoing series, bothered me slightly. The author has taken more liberties with the real world than he has previously. I’m accustom to following the novels with Google Maps open, reading the description and then finding the very building described in Street View. Here, real world places are renamed and moved. At first I thought it might be some legal issue and this really bothered me. But by the end of the novel, it had become clear (it’s also explained in an author’s note at the end of the book). The writer in me completely understands why (Heck, I’ve done the same thing myself), the reader would have probably unfairly marked this down for it.
However, this book does a good job of moving that overarching story on. A very good job in fact, in ways I’d not anticipated either as a reader or a writer. As a result, the reader in me is willing to forgive the liberties taken and totally wants the next book NOW. The reader in me is completely unreasonable and the writer in me thinks they are a bit of an arse.
If I had one genuine criticism, though, it would be that the start of the book stacks the bodycount and I had trouble remembering which victim was which. I’ve seen some people complain that the beginning of the novel was confusing and whilst I have enough faith in the author to be carried along for the ride I can see the argument for a slightly tighter opening act.
Whilst Broken Homes can be read as a standalone I’d recommend starting with the first book, Rivers of London, and working your way forwards. The overarching plot seems to be growing with each book so it would be a shame to miss out on it.
I thoroughly love this series and am so pleased to see its commercial success. Long may it continue.
Now, where’s book 5….?