The Furthest Station by Ben Aaronovitch

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The Furthest Station by Ben Aaronovitch

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Category: Crime
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Fran Smith
Reviewed by Fran Smith
Summary: A witty police procedural with added supernatural, set on the Metropolitan Line.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 128 Date: September 2017
Publisher: Gollancz
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1473222427

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When local police find something weird - spectres scaring commuters on a particular part of the Metropolitan Line, for example - they call for PC Peter Grant of the Special Assessment Unit, also known as The Folly. Stray river gods, missing Victorian children, fleeting 18th century dispatch riders, they are all in a day's (or a night's) work for The Folly team, even if the team only has two official members and the filing system dates back 2 centuries. He may spend time pursuing supernatural offenders, but Constable Grant is a nicely wry and recognisable copper; health and safety rules annoy him and he is inclined to trust his hunches and park outside Chinese take-aways in the hope of a free meal.

In The Furthest Station, Ben Aaronovitch takes Grant and his gifted cousin, the grouchy adolescent Abigail, as far out of London as the Underground will go. Why are a series of ghostly appearances troubling commuters on the Chesham line? Who is the odd little boy adopted by the elderly couple? Could there really be a princess being held prisoner?

There's something very pleasing about the supernatural juxtaposed with the platforms, sidings, and carriages full of irritable passengers on the real Underground. It makes you wonder whether that team in hiviz jackets you saw yesterday were actually setting a trap for vestigial presences instead of tackling routine maintenance. And ghosts on the Underground? Well, they're not difficult to imagine. So this is a set-up full of potential and its details are well engineered too. I am a late-comer to the series (this is number 7), and the story hurtled along assuming the reader grasped the conventions of the magic powers of DI Nightingale, who heads The Folly, his clever girl student, and his only officer with only the briefest explanation. If the details were sometimes a bit of a blur, so were the apparitions, I was happy to let them drift by. It's a dryly witty yarn too. This is Grant and his colleague knocking on doors: The woman who answered the door gave a familiar little start when she saw us and hesitated before saying, 'Ah. Yes.'

We know that reaction well - it is the cry of the guilty middle class homeowner.

This sort of thing always creates a dilemma since the scale of guilt you're dealing with ranges from using a hosepipe during a ban to having just finished cementing your abusive husband into the patio.

If you like your police procedurals with added ghosts and sorcery, this novella is highly readable fun – a great commuting read, perhaps.

When you've finished this one, you could try The Hanging Tree number 6 in the series by the same author, or if it's something more classically ghostly you fancy, you could try Printer's Devil Court by Susan Hill

Ben Aaronovitch's Rivers of London Novels in Chronological Order

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