open the pages, read the words, savor the magic

The Peter Grant Re-read of 2016


Being sick usually means enforced bed rest and being forced to stay in bed usually means reading a lot of books. That’s my version of bed rest, anyway, and since I have recently remember that I have an iPad equipped with iBooks, I decided to put in a lot of new reading materials in it. But sometime near the end of my sick leave, I decided that one of the ways I could cheer myself up again is to re-read all of Ben Aaronovitch’s Peter Grant novel.

When I first read the series, from book 1 to book 5, I decided that this was my order of favorite Peter Grant novels:

1. Rivers of London
2. Broken Homes
3. Foxglove Summer
4. Whispers Under Ground
5. Moon Over Soho

The reason for this ranking is that first of all, the original is always the best, and secondly, sometimes an unseen, unexpected, totally-from-left-field twist could make for the best reading experience no matter how heartbreaking it is. That’s why Rivers of London and Broken Homes took the top 2. I think Foxglove Summer could’ve been higher up in the series, but the change of setting from London to Herefordshire is too jarring and I wasn’t as familiar with the images of rural life in England as to feel completely attached to it. The book does introduce Dominic, though, and he’s a much better sidekick to Peter than anyone’s ever been, even Sergeant Kumar from BTP! Also, hey, there are fairies! That’s always interesting…

Whispers Under Ground is only at no. 4 mostly because I remember feeling disgusted by the whole setting of being in the sewers of London. And the mystery wasn’t all that interesting, although they did start investigating Faceless Man and Geoffrey Wheatcroft and the Little Crocodiles. The parts about the demon trap is pretty amazing, too, although not enough to balance the somewhat predictable outcome of the investigation.

Moon Over Soho is at the bottom (although, obviously, this ranking does by no means reflect the quality of the books – they’re all brilliant, they’re all favorites, but some are more interesting to me than the others) simply because it’s dark and sad. And as it was with Book 2 in a magic series (i.e. Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets) I seem to always favor the book before that one.

But now that I’ve read all five books all over again – out of sequence this time – I decided to rearrange my order of favorites. The new ranking surprised me when I scribbled it on my notebook the other day.

1. Broken Homes and Foxglove Summer
2. Moon Over Soho
3. Rivers of London
4. Whispers Under Ground

Starting at the bottom, Whispers really hasn’t changed my opinion of itself. I have more appreciation for Peter’s new ‘sidekicks’, Guleed (‘Somali Ninja Girl’) and Kumar of BTP simply because they’ve become perfect foils for Peter’s crazy life and statements, but the mystery is still predictable. Even noticing new details about the history of the underground tunnels I still thought the idea of modern day artists getting jealous of each other enough to drive one of them to murder was a little bit dull. So this one stays at the bottom.

For all of Rivers Of London’s being first published, which still makes it amazing for the sense of discovering something new, the idea of a malevolent Mr. Punch spirit wreaking bloody and gory havoc in London is less superior than the idea of scary carnivorous unicorns. Beverly Brook stars prominently in both Rivers and Foxglove Summer, which is always a plus, but her awesomeness triples in quality and quantity in Foxglove so I decided to put this latest title from the series at the top. Plus, Dominic still rocks.

The thing is, though, I don’t think I could now separate Foxglove Summer from its predecessor, Broken Homes. I originally liked Broken Homes because of the pure sensationalistic romp at the last part, with the confrontation against the Faceless Man on top of the magic-beaming ‘Stadtkrone’ and the building’s collapse and subsequently Lesley May’s betrayal. But since I read these two titles back to back, I realized how intricately tied the stories are now. Broken Homes is the action, Foxglove Summer is the reaction. Peter got to express, albeit having to be prompted first by Beverly, his frustration over Lesley and the part where Lesley warning Peter of the dangers to come ahead, and her cryptic promise that she’d try to keep Peter out of it.

And as it turns out, my experience rereading Moon Over Soho follows exactly my experience rereading Chamber of Secrets. Upon rereading, I discovered new depths to the story. Both ended up being a wonderful whodunnit with gruesome aspects to the investigation. The horror of imagining students being petrified to a state of coma equaled the creepiness of jazzmen’s life force being sucked out of their bodies by beautiful undead from World War II. Not to mention, Peter’s confrontation with the Pale Lady screams ‘Hollywood action sequence!’ to the max, and the supporting characters are all interesting, especially Tiger Boy.

I don’t think I have to reiterate the fact that my most anticipated release of 2016 is The Hanging Tree, which is Book 6. I was among those crying in tears of frustration last year – though perhaps not as loud or hysterical as the cries of multitudes of A Song of Ice and Fire fans – when I found out that its release had been delayed until June this year. And the setting is back in London (something to do with Oxford Street or Mayfair, I think?) so that’s interesting.

Maybe we’ll find out what’s behind the doors of the Folly that Nightingale’s keeping secret, and what the Faceless Man is planning. Maybe we’ll find out whether Peter discovers fatherhood after ‘fertilizing’ a river with Beverly. Maybe he’ll tell Molly, “I met your relatives in the woods.” Whatever it is Mr. Aaronovitch plans for us, I’m going to read about it with relish… hopefully not in bed during sick leave, but in a chair somewhere quiet and with coffee in front of me.


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