Sunday, 12 January 2014

Ben Aaronovitch: Broken Homes

Oh, Lesley, how could you?

Yeah, spoilers, but with the current page views for all three previous Peter Grant blogs standing at less than 100, somehow I can't imagine that I'm wrecking anything for a significant percentage of the book-reading public.

Broken Homes is the book that hammers home once and for all that Aaronovitch is writing one great big book on the instalment plan. Yes, there's a central mystery plot, and yes, it gets sorted out along the way, but the real action is in the master plot. 

Detective stories often have a slow rumble of character development going on in the background, as the characters get older and the wear and tear builds up from one case to the next. The Peter Grant stories are unusual - for me anyhow - in the way that the background plot is steadily becoming much more important than the mystery on the jacket notes. On the one hand, you've got the never elucidated back-story for Chief Inspector Nightingale, which is mostly just blurs and suggestions (and a recurring opportunity for Peter Grant to make Hogwarts jokes). On the other hand, you've got the Faceless Man, yer ackshul series villain, up to god knows what and still one step ahead of the plods. And finally, you've got poor Lesley, who's been having a horrible time since the very first book and now…..

Well, yes, let's not tear the arse out of the spoilage. It's a pretty dramatic twist, and I have to say it's a good one; you don't see it coming, and yet once it hits, it doesn't seem like a cheat. So well done, as usual.

Peter Grant continues to be good company as a narrator, endlessly digressing into the details of police procedure in a way which illuminates not just the nature of modern day policing but his own character as well; for all that Grant tries to sound cynical and disillusioned about the bureaucracy, he still comes off as a true believer in the ideas behind all the rules and regulations.

The book plot; well, as with all the other books, it's more about Aaronovitch unpicking some aspect of London and hanging some magic off it than anything else; this time it's high rise housing and the way in which somehow semi-privatisation has actually managed make a public sector idea even worse than it was.

But as always, the real question is not whodunnit, but what are these crazy kids going to do next. 

No comments: