14th Jun2017

‘Rivers of London: Detective Stories #1’ Review

by Dean Fuller

Written by Ben Aaronovitch, Andrew Cartmel | Art by Lee Sullivan | Published by Titan Comics


It was three long months ago when I reviewed the last Rivers of London issue, the final part of the Black Mould story arc. That was fine stuff. In fact, aside from a couple of issues during the ‘Night Witch’ arc which underwhelmed, Rivers of London has been pretty darn consistently good. For the start of the new arc ‘Detective Stories’ I’m pleased to see the creative gang is all back together. Aaronovitch and Cartmel on vocals, Sullivan on melody…or script and art for the less poetically inclined. I suspect this book needs all those pieces in place to stay such great entertainment, so am happy to see them all back.

This arc kicks off, in typically humorous fashion, with a little bit of background on PC Peter Grant and the branch of the Metropolitan Police he works for, The Folly. The Folly has been the centre of British wizardry since 1775, following a system put in place by Sir Isaac Newton. The Folly deals with magical crimes, and is headed by Detective Inspector Thomas Nightingale. Both him and Peter are wizards of sorts, something Peter’s interviewing officer, Detective Inspector Chopra, still struggles to get his head around. Peter is explaining to him how a magical case was recently conducted and classified a ‘Falcon’ case, a case for the attention of The Folly. I’m getting the impression Chopra is learning all this at the same time we all are.

Peter’s case involved finding the carcass of a goat, but one burned by fire that seemed magical in nature. The investigation led to a shady ex-cop, James Slack, not the winner of any charm awards recently it would seem. Although he interests Peter, Slack’s high end lawyer James Doyle does even more, and he tails him. Turns out Doyle is rich and bored, and has been trying to follow the teachings of an old magic book, The Hastings Manuscript. The book tells how to achieve godhood you must first make yourself completely self-centered and indifferent to the needs of others. Such as watching a live goat burn. Interesting enough, but Doyle witnessed a colleague, Tony Harden, set the goat on fire using just his hands.

So, Peter follows the next trail, leading to the home of Tony Harden, the Goat Firestarter (not quite the Horse Whisperer, but there you go). Harden’s home was a shrine to all things bad, but Harden himself was dead. Over-use of magic, it seemed and that was it. Just some amateurs dabbling where they shouldn’t. Or was it? As Chopra points out, most amateur magicians have a teacher. Time to look a little more closely at that law firm they both worked for….

Not that I thought it would, but this didn’t disappoint. From the clever framing sequence of the detective assessment, to the top notch dialogue and narration, and the almost laugh out loud one liners, this was everyone again at the top of the game. Perhaps even better than normal as the spotlight is almost exclusively on Peter, he has to carry the whole thing, yet does so without missing a beat. Lee Sullivan’s art was in perfect synch, very conventional still with his panel layouts but second to none with his pacing and storytelling. The script and art mesh as well together as the best TV shows or films do, really a team effort in every sense.

A welcome return, and Aaronovitch and Cartmel have never been on finer form. Peter’s first person narration is the reason this book works so well, and I only wish I could summon the one-liners and deadpan humour he can.

Must be magic.

**** 4/5


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