Tag: police procedurals

Whispers Under Ground by Ben Aaronovitch

Posted February 25, 2015 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Fantasy / 4 Comments

Whispers Under Ground by Ben AaronovitchTitle: Whispers Under Ground (Goodreads)
Author: Ben Aaronovitch
Series: Peter Grant #3
Narrator: Kobna Holdbrook-Smith
Published: Orion, 2012
Pages: 303
Genres: Fantasy
My Copy: Audiobook

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

When a body is found stabbed to death at the far end of Baker Street tube station, it seems like an ordinary murder. The victim is an exchange student at Central St. Martins named James Gallagher and his father is an American senator. The Folly have been called in to assist with the investigation and it is quickly discovers that there is a supernatural component to this crime. This case leads Peter Grant into the secret underground that lies underneath the streets of London.

Peter Grant is back in the third book in the series, still a sorcerer’s apprentice to Inspector Nightingale. The Folly, which is the police department that specialises in the supernatural has grown to three, as Lesley May officially joins the team. Yet again this is a natural progression in the series, Peter doesn’t know many spells and still struggles with his form but he has grown as a police officer, a wizard and a person. What I enjoyed about Whispers Under Ground is the character Dr Abdul Haqq Walid is explored in greater detail. He is a world renowned gastroenterologist and cryptopathologist who works with the Folly and is investigating how magic effects the world. This allows Ben Aaronovitch to build his world a bit more and explores the effects of magic.

While this is an urban fantasy series, it follows the tropes found in a police procedural and Peter Grant never just relies on his magical abilities but rather sticks to his strengths, which he learned from his training. There is a lot of investigational work within the series and sometimes I worry that the police procedural elements will over power the urban fantasy or humour, however Aaronovitch gets the balance right.

If you have not read the series, I would highly recommend it mainly because of the character development, in particular Peter Grant and Nightingale. Peter Grant is a biracial character (his mother is from Sierra Leone and I am pretty sure his father is white) and his heritage and life play a big part in shaping him. This also allows Ben Aaronovitch to play a little with racism but I feel like he handles the whole subject well. Inspector Nightingale is a prim and proper Englishman and the last officially sanctioned English Wizard, having gone to a now defunct private school for wizardry allows for plenty of Harry Potter jokes.

This is a fun series that I am completely immersed in; when I finished Whispers Under Ground I didn’t want to leave the world. I started Broken Homes (which is book four) straight away, which is unusual for me but I needed to know what happened next. For fans of urban fantasy, police procedurals and British humour, I highly recommend the Peter Grant series, I do not think you will be disappointed.

Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett

Posted May 16, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Fantasy / 0 Comments

Guards! Guards! by Terry PratchettTitle: Guards! Guards! (Goodreads)
Author: Terry Pratchett
Series: Discworld #8
Published: Orion, 1998
Pages: 317
Genres: Fantasy
My Copy: Borrowed from a Friend

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

The Unique and Supreme Lodge of the Elucidated Brethren of the Ebon Night is a secret organisation that plans to overthrow the Patrician and install a king of their choosing; a puppet under the control of the Supreme Grand Master. Using a stolen magic book to summon a dragon on the people of Ankh-Morpork, the plan is to slay the dragon, rid the city of its tyranny and have their hero take the throne.

Guards! Guards! attempts to parody Hard-Boiled and Noir novels with elements of police procedurals but there is one thing that really doesn’t match this style. Guards! Guards! is writing in third person with an omniscient and reliable narrator, this really seems weird since the style of novel it is trying to parody is often first person and unreliable. I’m not sure if it is the fact that all Terry Pratchett novels are written in the same style but it really didn’t help me connect with the novel, let alone notice most of the parodies.

This is a simple quest plot, The Unique and Supreme Lodge of the Elucidated Brethren of the Ebon Night obviously want to take over the throne but there are a few other plotlines that are on a quest for power. Wonse (The secretary to the Patrician) had power; he could make commands and have them carried out and he quite enjoyed that. Now he has lost this power, he wants it back. The Patrician wishes to hold onto his power as the ruining king, ultimately his calm demeanour is what aids him through the tyranny.

One thing I thought was difficult about this book was the language; while this novel uses modern language there is a lot of in world slang that took a while to get used to. There was an incident where a character got intoxicated and the words started being misspelt for emphasises. This can be effective but you don’t find out this is due to his intoxication till you read through some of his gibberish. Sometimes the language can be effective like when Death speaks, he only uses capital letters and when the dragons are speaking they use italics. Overall it just took so much to get used to. If you are a reader of the Discworld series, this might not seem too difficult but for an outsider like me it really affected my enjoyment of this novel.

This novel wasn’t broken into chapters; it’s just three hundred plus pages of continuous story. I’m not really sure the reason behind this, but the only way the novel switches between the plot and subplot are paragraph breaks. I’m not saying it is necessarily a bad thing but when you want to put the book down, I think it makes it hard to find a decent stopping place.

I’ve been very vocal about my struggle to connect with fantasy novels; I discovered I do enjoy the urban fantasy/noir blends (The Dresden Files, Bobby Dollar series) so I thought maybe this would be similar. Sure this book was funny and some of the parodies worked really well but it missed any crime element to really work for me. To make a good fantasy/noir blended novel, I think it needs to be a lot darker, with some cynical elements; it doesn’t necessarily need a crime but a quest that will cause an inner struggle within the protagonist will help.

If someone has a suggestion for a decent fantasy novel with some noir elements to it, please let me know. Guards! Guards! is a very funny fantasy novel; this is the second Discworld novel I’ve read and while I did enjoy them, I felt like the both lacked something. I guess I much prefer darker stories; this is just light entertainment and sometimes you need that, but it’s not a series I plan to read in its entirety.

The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters

Posted January 4, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Science Fiction / 0 Comments

The Last Policeman by Ben H. WintersTitle: The Last Policeman (Goodreads)
Author: Ben H. Winters
Series: Last Policeman #1
Published: Quirk, 2012
Pages: 316
Genres: Science Fiction
My Copy: Personal Copy

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

If a huge asteroid was heading towards earth threating to destroy all mankind, what would you do? Would you even bother to continue working? Would you worry about solving a crime? Detective Hank Palace is determined to solve a suspicious suicide even when the rest of the world doesn’t care in this apocalyptic whodunit, making him The Last Policeman.

I love the idea of blending apocalyptic fiction with a pulp type crime novel. The world is in decline and Hank Palace has only just made detective. So without anyone else caring about this crime, why would he spend so much time trying to prove himself as a homicide detective? This really is the driving force of this book; you are always questioning the motivation of Palace when the rest of the world wants to live life to its fullest.

Personally I would have liked to see Hank to be a bit more hard-boiled but the idea of being a newbie to the force wanting to prove himself was pretty enjoyable. He was a little unsure and sometimes too timid but he never gave up. I would have loved to see more depth to the character but as this is a planned trilogy I think the author is saving some more for the next two books. Unfortunately all the others are just background characters and they never had the development they deserved. I think this might have been just a lack of experience from author Ben H. Winters; best known for his mash up novels Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters and Android Karenina.

The crime itself was pretty straight forward and even predictable but the problems with solving the case was trying to do it without any forensic or police help, so I feel like I can forgive Winters for this. Then there is the subplot which forces more on the apocalyptic struggle to try and survive aspects. I felt like this was the biggest let down of the book, I know he wanted to help his sister but as a reader I felt like it was just fleshing out the novel and trying to make sure it’s at least 300 pages long.

I’m interested to see what author Ben H. Winters does with this trilogy; I’m hoping he grows as a writer and incorporates more pulp elements in the next two books. Detective Palace has real potential as a protagonist; he has some appeal to him already but with some development he could be great. I like the Science-Fiction pulp mash-up and I hope this continues, Winters has a great idea here and with some love and hard work this will turn out to be a great trilogy.

The Hardest Working Fake Author

Posted May 19, 2012 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literature / 0 Comments

Richard Castle may be the hardest working fake author around. What seems like a great marketing strategy has seemed to take off on its own. While the Nikki Heat books seem to show up in the TV show Castle, now there is a new series to help people get a better understanding of Richard Castle’s best known character (according to the fans in the show) Derrick Storm. I’ve read a few of the Nikki Heat books now; and while I find them to be gimmicky, as a fan of the TV show, it was nice to read a book that tells a story that you don’t see on the show. Well that was with the first book Heat Wave; when I read Naked Heat, I did think it was so similar to the show that I felt like I knew the story already.

So most people may already know Richard Castle is the fictional author and protagonist of the TV show Castle and is portrayed by Nathan Fillion. Heat Wave was the first book released by this fictional author; it was released on September 29, 2009, and debuted at #26 on the New York Times Best Seller list. In its 4th week on the list, Heat Wave broke into the top 10 at #6. Now they have started a Derrick Storm series (not just the graphic novels) which takes a new direction from this marketing strategy; not promoting the show so much.  A Brewing Storm tells the story of a spy coming out of retirement to help find the kidnapped stepson of a high ranking politician. While the book is short, it was interesting to get a better sense of the character that makes Richard Castle a bestselling author (in the show).

Richard Castle isn’t the only TV author to release a book; Hanky Moody of Californication has also released a book called God Hates Us All. Later this year Richard Castle will be releasing two more Derrick Storm books as well as the forth book in the Nikki Heat series; Frozen Heat.