Saturday, July 6, 2013

Moon Over Soho (book) by Ben Aaronovitch

Moon Over Soho is the second book in Aaronovitch's Peter Grant series. I'd call it urban fantasy plus mystery.

This review doesn't exactly contain spoilers, but some of the things I write about will probably make it easy to guess what happens, so read on with caution.

[Just noticed that I had this book down as being written by its main character. Whoops. I fixed it.]

Synopsis:

Peter Grant, apprentice wizard, spends most of this book primarily trying to solve one series of murders. Someone or something is using magic to kill jazz musicians just after or during gigs. Meanwhile, he's also helping out with another case involving vagina dentata: a woman whose vagina contains teeth. Sharp ones. Her victims die of blood loss after getting their penises bitten off during sex.

Review:

I loved the first book in this series, Midnight Riot, so I decided to read this one too. Sadly, I didn't like it quite as much as the first.

Peter's “voice” was still a lot of fun. I loved all the little snarky details, and I liked the scientific approach he took towards magic. I enjoyed the brief appearance of Ash, the river god exchanged for Beverley in the previous book, much more than I thought I would, and I loved how Aaronovich was able to turn London into a character in its own right. I love Molly enough that I hope she at least gets to have a storyline in a future book devoted to her. However, the mystery aspects made less of an impact than they did in the first book, and the stupidity level was unusually high.

As with the first book, I found that I was more interested in Peter and his thoughts than I was in the mysteries themselves. Unfortunately, Peter's handling of things in this book was extremely bad. First off, all the victims in his primary case were jazz musicians. So, did he worry when his father suddenly started preparing to play jazz music again? No. In fact, he arranged for his father to play in front of an audience with some of the former band members of one of the victims in his current case. Second, he began sleeping with the girlfriend of one of the victims. It didn't occur to him until a good deal later that it was odd that she had already stopped mourning her boyfriend, and it didn't occur to him that it might not be a good idea to sleep with someone so closely connected to his case. Third, although Peter helped arrange the agreement between Mother and Father Thames in the previous book, he didn't once give a thought to the possible consequences of putting Ash in a potentially dangerous situation. The number of times Peter did stupid things really bothered me.

The jazz musician case was low key enough that I couldn't seem to drum up much enthusiasm for it. The vagina dentata case had a lot more action (and gore), but it wasn't really the primary focus. When things started to come together near the end, I had trouble following and remembering all the threads that connected everything.

Overall, I still enjoy this series (and you can bet I'm looking forward to the future TV series). I can't wait to see where things go with Leslie, who wasn't physically present during most of this book, but who pulled a huge surprise out of thin air in the last couple pages (I'm still wondering how she managed what she did, and who taught her). However, I hope the next book is better than this one.

Read-alikes and Watch-alikes:
  • Anansi Boys (book) by Neil Gaiman - Technically, the first book Gaiman wrote that was set in this world was American Gods. However, I think Anansi Boys is better. Those who'd like something else featuring gods who live among humans and a good dose of dry humor might want to give it a shot. I'm pretty sure it works fine as a standalone.
  • Storm Front (book) by Jim Butcher - The first book in Butcher's Dresden Files series. Those who'd like another urban fantasy series starring a male character and featuring a good dose of murder mystery and snarky humor might want to give this a try.
  • The Mister Trophy (e-short story) by Frank Tuttle - Again, another good one for those who'd like a mix of snarky humor, mystery, and fantasy. The main character is a private eye in a world populated with an uneasy mix of humans, vampires, trolls, and more. I've written about this short story.
  • Neverwhere (book) by Neil Gaiman - If you liked Midnight Riot's combination of fantasy with lots of London details, give this book a try. Gaiman creates a dark fantasy world that exists in "London Below," just underneath and outside the notice of all us ordinary, everyday people.
  • Guards! Guards! (book) by Terry Pratchett - If you'd like more cops, fantasy, and dry humor, give this book a try. It's not the first book in the series, but I'm pretty sure it still works as a good entry point for newbies.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist (manga) by Hiromu Arakawa; Fullmetal Alchemist (anime TV series) - If you loved the way Peter approached magic from a logical, more scientific standpoint, you might want to give this series a try. In the world of Fullmetal Alchemist, alchemy is seen as a science. The manga and original anime series are drastically different after a certain point, but both are good. There's another anime adaptation, but I wouldn't recommend newbies to the series begin with it, because of the way it shortchanges some of the emotional content in the beginning. I've written about volume 16 of the manga and part of the original anime series.
  • Solo Hand (book) by Bill Moody - I haven't read this, but decided to add it to this read-alikes list in case there were those who just wanted to find more books featuring jazz musicians. This is a straight-up contemporary mystery, no fantasy aspects, and I have no idea how Moody's writing compares to Aaronovich's. It sounds like the second book in the series, Death of a Tenor Man, might have even more to do with jazz than this one.

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