Ben Aaronovitch’s latest in the Peter Grant series, which has featured novels of both the regular and graphic variety, is the novella The Furthest Station. It is true to form: funny, smart, diverse and utterly delightful. Something is going bump on the Metropolitan line, and PC Peter Grant is just the man to investigate. There have been a spate of sad spectres spotted on the metro, no longer harmless and definitely no good for tourism.
PC Peter Grant is a junior member of London’s Metropolitan Police’s Special Assessment unit, known as The Folly, known for the place where all the weird stuff goes. Official duties include learning spells, ghost-hunting, translating latin, and dealing with the spirits, sprites, magic and other oddities of London that fall out of regular police purview. Partnering with the British Transport Police, his wannabe wizard cousin, a preschool river god and Toby the ghost hunting dog, Peter must brave London’s Underground rush hour to find the source of the ghosts. Things move quickly as it becomes apparent that a real person’s life might be in danger, and the ghosts are trying to get them help.
It’s a wonderful set up and cast of characters. Aaronovitch’s writing and Peter’s narration voice are delightful: sharp and funny and really quite smart. There is a genuineness that comes across with Peter, combining classic policing to solve old-fashioned crimes in this utterly mysterious and unknowable parallel magic and mythic world. Peter and his friends work in a world where harm is just as real as everywhere else, but because it’s weird stuff, it’s a space that others in the Police force would really rather not like to know too much about, thank you very much.
Aaronovitch has again manage to combine the ‘ello ‘ello ‘ello classic comedy of British policing with the potent historical mythology of London. It is fertile ground. Again it is wickedly funny and surprisingly affecting, but this book does not quite reach the very high standard the other novels in this series sets. I think this is quite simply because of space: in this novella there is just not enough time to follow some red herrings, set up and then tie up loose ends, be diverted and charmed and recover from mistakes and return triumphant. With such a small book we have a wonderful set up, investigation, conclusion. The tone and theme is spot on, but there is just not enough room for the rest of the delightful details that normally fill a Peter Grant book.
If you’re not familiar with the series, don’t start here (try here, instead). If you’re in deep, like me, and love it, The Furthest Station is a delightful and diverting next instalment to keep you satiated until the next novel. My only complaint was that is was not quite long enough for me to get my fill.