It begins with a dead body at the far end of Baker Street tube station, all that remains of American exchange student James Gallagher—and the victim’s wealthy, politically powerful family is understandably eager to get to the bottom of the gruesome murder. The trouble is, the bottom—if it exists at all—is deeper and more unnatural than anyone suspects…except, that is, for London constable and sorcerer’s apprentice Peter Grant. With Inspector Nightingale, the last registered wizard in England, tied up in the hunt for the rogue magician known as “the Faceless Man,” it’s up to Peter to plumb the haunted depths of the oldest, largest, and—as of now—deadliest subway system in the world.
At least he won’t be alone. No, the FBI has sent over a crack agent to help. She’s young, ambitious, beautiful…and a born-again Christian apt to view any magic as the work of the devil. Oh yeah—that’s going to go well.
This is very much a grown up urban fantasy series where Peter Grant is our protagonist and often very amusingly, rather cynical narrator. He’s a policeman based in London, about to be consigned to a data entry post as far too easily distracted for real police work. Just as he’s about to resign himself to his fate he finds that he has an aptitude for sensing the supernatural. He quickly finds out that London is home to ghosts, gods, wizards and so on and it’s up to the police to make sure that they toe the line. Any cases with a supernatural element are passed to Detective Chief Inspector Nightingale with the proviso that it stays hidden from the general public’s knowledge and preferably, separate from their normal police investigations. Nightingale, a wizard in his own right takes on Peter as his apprentice.
In this book (the third in the series), Peter is asked to assist in a murder investigation, the victim being an American with a father influential enough to warrant the FBI being involved. The setting for the investigation is centred around the underground tunnels and the stinking sewers of London.
The pace of this book once it gets going, is fast and action packed. Yet again Aaronovitch’s classic British humour is superb. He also has the ability to make you snort with amusement one minute and then feel uneasy the next when the scene suddenly turns sinister.
Inspector Seawoll is back leading the task force and any hopes that his own recent brush with magic will have endeared him to Nightingale’s department and Peter in particular, are cruelly but nevertheless amusingly, dashed.
It’s great to see that Lesley’s presence in this book is much stronger as she joins the team, thanks to her recent disclosure in ‘Moon under Soho’. It’s also interesting to see how she is developing as a character now that her once beautiful face is now so horribly disfigured. It would have been so easy to just ‘magic’ her back to normal. Instead we see her continue to be the technically brilliant police officer that she is whilst she and Peter cope with her new found visual disfigurement.
Verdict : Murder, genius loci, magic and humour all in one book. Aaronivitch has done it again with ‘Whispers Underground’ and is my favourite book of the series so far.
Please note that artwork featured is for the UK hardback published by Gollancz on the 21st June 2012
Reviewed by Karen