Review: Whispers Under Ground by Ben Aaronovitch

February 11, 2014 2014, B+, book rating, reviews 4

I’m participating in the TBR Pile Challenge hosted at the Bookish blog and also in the Book Bingo Challenge. This book fits both of these challenges.

Whispers undergroundWhispers Under Ground
by Ben Aaronovitch
Series: Peter Grant, Book 3
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Published by Del Rey, 2012
E-book, Purchased
418 pages
Grade: B+
Synopsis: 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.

Not being invited in is one of the boxes on the “suspicious behavior” bingo form that every copper carries around in their head along with “stupidly overpowerful dog” and being too quick to supply an alibi. Fill all the boxes and you too could win an all-­expenses-paid visit to your local police station.


My mum translated this in her head to “witchfinder,” which was good because like most West Africans, she considered witchfinding a more respectable profession than policeman.

What worked for me:

  • A fairly gritty urban fantasy, but with an irreverence which leavens the story–keeping the book from getting too dark.
  • The setting is London–a nice change from the United States.
  • Peter Grant is a likable character. His superiors in the police force feel he may help with supernatural cases, but also think he’s a loose cannon and a not-very-good constable.
  • Peter’s interactions with Lesley are interesting.  Unlike Peter she’s considered one of the best young constables around. They’re good friends and Lesley is also learning to use magic, but things which happened in the last book are still affecting both of them in this book.
  • In this book Peter has to work for not only his own superior officer (and wizard) Inspector Nightingale, but also with Detective Inspector Stephanopoulos  and Detective Chief Inspector Seawoll. They don’t appreciate either his humor or his penchant for creating chaos.
  • Race is present in this series, but I get a different vibe in this series about race than from many books set in the U.S. Peter is very matter-of-fact about who he is. It’s part of his identity, but not more important than another part of his identity.
  • I like the way this book has moved the overall story forward. Peter and Lesley learn more about magic and how to use it and about the people around them.
  • Much of the book happens in the tube stations, underground tunnels and sewers under London.
  • The way magic, mythology, history and terrain around London are used by Ben Aaronovitch is so interesting. For example, the rivers of London and the false houses. (I was very excited when the false houses were also used by Sherlock in one of the latest Sherlock episodes on Masterpiece Theater!)

What didn’t work:

  • It’s important to start with the first two books in this series. Lots happens prior to this book. This didn’t bother me since I read those books. Some police procedurals (which this is a cousin of perhaps) can be picked up wherever in the series. Because of the world building and what happens to characters in previous books it helps to know what is going on by starting at the beginning!

My thoughts:

I like this series a lot. This was a solid book for the series moving the story along with a good mystery. The fourth book–Broken Homes–was published in the United States on February 4, 2014 and I’ve bought it so I can read it soon!

If you click on the link below this map you will find a Google map Ben Aaronovitch created which shows the places in London Peter and other characters went during this book (and other books). Great fun!

View Whispers Under Ground in a larger map

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