By Ben Aaronovitch
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
The fourth novel in Ben Aaronovitch's Rivers of London series, Broken Homes continues to advance the overarching series plot while Peter Grant and Lesley May work to uncover the secrets of a massive housing development in Elephant and Castle on the southern banks of the Thames.
Broken Homes actually opens with a car crash that reveals a murder. Although Peter is called in, he manages to pass the case off to the local constabulary. While it is clear that the case will have repercussions throughout the novel, the manner in which Aaronovitch handles the case, and how dismissive he is, sets the tone for much of Broken Homes. Throughout the book, it seems as if Peter is coming across red herrings that don't tie together and even the murders he comes across seem as if they aren't important, falling by the wayside as Peter moves almost aimlessly along.
The novel has an episodic and disjointed feel to it. Peter and Lesley's actions and the cases they are working on don't always feel as if they follow from the previous activity. In many ways, the book seems to be a transition book focused more on the overarching story of Peter and Nightingale's search for the Faceless Man than the sort of police procedural the previous novels in the series are.
A stolen magic tome leads Peter to the architect Erik Stromberg, who had once owned the book. Stromberg had built the Skygarden on the south banks of the Thames. Nightingale assigns Peter and Lesley to go undercover in the residential block in an attempt to find out why Stromberg was interested in magic and how he might have incorporated it into the building. Although the building is dilapidated, it still has enough residents to form a community of sorts and Peter also discovered that there is a small glade in the tower's garden which is home to magical creatures.
Eventually, they determine that the tower is also a focus of the Faceless Man and there is a showdown between him and Peter, which ends in an unexpected manner, although one which clearly sets up future adventures for Grant and Nightingale and others who are associated with the Folly, the London police force's magical unit.
The ending also hints that many of the apparently random and ignored pieces of information dropped throughout the novel are going to become important in future books. Because of this, Broken Homes feels less like a novel in its own right and more as a way station, connecting Whispers Under Ground to Foxglove Summer, but ultimately unsatisfying when taken on its own.
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