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Whispers Underground – Ben Aaronovitch

In this third instalment of the Peter Grant detective come magician series we are introduced to some strange going ons in the Underground, ghosts and the Faceless Man.


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 was a good instalment in the series. Now that we’re more comfortable with the characters, and Aaronovitch’s writing style – comedic, a bit dry, and quite well flowing – it is easier to get into the book. I read the first half quite quickly, but that tapered off towards the end, not because it wasn’t interesting, but more because life got in the way.

Once you start reading it’s easy to remember what has happened in the previous two books, in some instances you don’t get a chance to forget. For instance overtime we’re with Lesley there is always a reference to her disfigured face and her need for a complete face mask – it’s not always necessary to reference this, and it does annoy me that authors do spoon feed their readers in this way. We have imaginations. And memories, that should be enough, no?

From the synopsis I thought that there would be more involvement with the FBI. Agent Reynolds is almost a character for convenience, turning up every now and again to get in the way rather than being a constructive character that actually either helps or hinders. It’s like the author introduced her simply because his main victim was an American. I don’t remember reading anything about her being a Christian.

The Underground goings on was more interesting; I’ve always been interested in the Underground network and would love to see some abandoned stations. The idea of people living underground is fascinating. Whether it’s in a survival manner such as Metro 33, or like the Steampunk-esque people in Jeter’s “Morlock Night” it’s a curiosity to wonder how people would actually be able to survive.

This particular book had a couple of jumping around in the plot threads from previous books. The River Gods/Goddesses I find are the hardest bit to understand within the story. My eyes tend to gloss over those bits as I don’t really understand them and where they’re going. Introducing other species and different types of magic was a nice touch to keep things moving along and to not make the story become stale.

I love the references to Harry Potter. And there was even a Star Trek: Next Gen reference as well that made all warm and happy inside!

Have you read this book? What do you think of this series?