Broken Homes (Peter Grant, #4)

Broken Homes - Ben Aaronovitch Peter and Lesley are still trying to track down the Faceless Man and his erstwhile pupils; it’s a long, tedious task only achievable by dogged police work.Of course, the understaffed magical police force has plenty of other things to drag their attention – an ancient magical book that a thief tried to sell, a man committing a very suspicious suicide, people being microwaved, a Russian military trained witch and the gods and goddesses of the Thames demanding their attention. And some of it is definitely linked to a bemusing tower block that doesn’t quite make senseThere’s a lot to handle – and the Faceless Man’s influence is definitely behind some of it – but which and why?Nightingale insists the Faceless man is no Moriarty – but he may be wrong on this oneWhen a copy of this book was pushed through my door on Friday evening, I opened it then cleared my desk, dropped my e-reader and turned off my phone. There would be no interruptions. When the sun rose Saturday morning, I had finished reading it – and could finally allow myself to sleepIt’s an excellent sign of a good book – does it rob me of sleep? Can I read all 357 pages of it without any breaks? And, particularly, can I read it in one setting and not even take a break to get coffee? The answer to all is yes, I love this book more than coffee.There’s so much about this book I love. I love its realness – which sounds strange about a book that is about the supernatural, but it’s true. I love the sense of London you get from every page, the very real place that it conjures, the actual real place that it relates to. You can feel London – and intimate knowledge of London - on every page. I can’t undersell how powerful the setting is.But the realness doesn’t just stop at the city, there’s also a lot of research that has gone into Peter’s job as a policeman. The procedures, the bodies he deals with, the hoops he has to jump through. His wry views of both the public through a policeman’s eyes and the same wry criticism of the police’s own failings both historic and present (especially as a Black man who grew up in a poor neighbourhood). When so many crime stories have magical forensics, impossibly fast deductions, so little actual investigation and police work and such a very fast and loose approach to what the law actually means, it’s so excellent that this Urban Fantasy book has a more realistic presentation of police work than any number of crime dramas. My personal favourite was replacing the jurisdictional battles (“it’s my case! How dare you steal my case!”) with police forces trying to push cases on each other because they can see how much budget it’s going to eat up.Woven into that is an extremely complex and varied and deep world with rules and structure that makes for some of the best Urban Fantasy. But it’s coupled with both a willingness to allow characters – even awesomely powerful, knowledgeable characters – to be ignorant. Parts of the world building is covered by “I don’t know” and it’s not sloppy world building – it’s an acknowledgement that no-one would know everything about magic any more than we today know all there is to know about physics. The magical is blended into not just the present fabric of London as it is presented, but it’s also heavily entwined historically as well – the supernatural is carefully included as part of the history of Europe adding a layer of richness to the world. At the same time, even with the extremely long explanations that the book includes, we’re not given more of the world building than we can actually handle – it’s not too much or too overwhelming, it is handled with some restraintPerhaps above all, I love Peter’s voice. I love his snarky self-depreciation, I love his wry view of the world, I love his underlying optimism. I love the character and his relationship to his family, how he clearly loves them, is amused by them, reacts to them and isn’t blinkered to the faults of his father. His relationship with Nightingale is excellent (and I truly loved seeing Nightingale truly let rip in this book to remind us that this quiet, unassuming, faultlessly polite man has such immense power). His relationship with Lesley works better now she’s moved more firmly away from being a love interest (there’s a hint around, but strong friendship is now much more clearly on the cards).I like Lesley and she was much more present in this book so a more integral part of the story. However this did kind of make the focus on Peter a little more shaky – because Lesley was there nearly all the time but despite being present didn’t seem to be as involved as him. Which doesn’t work well with the general presentation of her as being much more capable, intelligent and skilled than Peter himself, which is a great portrayal. I think some of this can be explained by the ending but we shall see. Once element I appreciated was that Lesley is a far more unsympathetic, hard nosed copper to Peter’s more forgiving, more liberal, more bleeding heart approach which not only breaks stereotype but links nicely to their backgrounds.Read More