Recommendation: The Audible audiobook spoiled me for the paperback, and I don’t even like audiobooks
Where to read: This is silly, wind-down-from-work reading
Read with: East London Liquor Company Dry Gin
In brief: I have never said this before, but screw the book, go for the audio version. Kobna Holdbrook-Smith could read me the phone book and I would be into it, and this is not the phone book. I didn’t find the actual plot particularly engrossing but the characters are excellent and the general conceit delightful.
Here’s the thing, I hate 99% of audiobooks. I make exceptions for the Stephen Fry Harry Potter series and a couple of other excellent examples of the form but generally speaking, I would rather listen to a podcast, or music … or thrash metal if we’re being honest with ourselves. When it comes to Rivers of London, however, Holdbrook-Smith works wonders: I was giggling like a child in the car and having far too much fun generally. Having started with the audio version, I was then forced to switch to the book version and I liked it …. but I didn’t love it anymore.
Turning to the actual novel, Rivers of London is a cross between Harry Potter and The Rook, with a generous dash of Doctor Who added in for good measure. Early on, we are set up with two main narratives: a series of bizarre and apparently supernatural murders across London and conflict between the various Gods and Goddesses in London’s rivers (hence the name). The former drives the plot of the first book while the latter is set up as a source of ongoing tension and sauciness.
If I am being honest, I didn’t find the murder mystery particularly compelling however the main character, Peter Grant, has an outrageously engaging narrative voice, the world-building is excellent and Inspector Nightingale is such a fun character I wanted more of him constantly … and like a prequel or something, pls thx bye. It’s also fucking funny – again, this comes down to Grant’s voice, the quips and the cheeky commentary on London and London coppers. It’s a big, smart, nerdy hoot as long as you focus on this aspect of it rather than the actual plot and that, I think, is where the audiobook comes in.