I have fallen behind on the series, but this novella reminded me why I became a fan of Aaronovitch after reading the first book in this series. The October Man is a police procedural written in a matter-of-fact, dry style despite the case revolving around barely understood magic and centuries-old river goddesses. The style matches my memories of the London-based stories enough for the narration to be familiar, but the use of German terminology and circumstances protected me from confusing the main characters.
The neighborhood feel draws you in while the dry reporting is supported by beautiful characterization and nice humorous elements to put the reader in an accepting mood. That’s a good thing, because there’s much in this story beyond the boundaries of our known world.
I’ll admit to being a little lost in the beginning because we’re tossed into the story with an unnamed first-person narrator and a situation new to me. Re-reading the book blurb before starting would have prevented this, but it wasn’t included in the Advanced Reader Copy. Still, it didn’t take long before someone called him by name and things clicked into place.
An easy example of the humor is when the main character, Tobias Winter, acquires his sidekick in the form of local police liaison Vanessa Sommer. She has more than her name to offer, though, as her eager exploration of the magic she previously doubted runs a good counterpoint to Tobi’s frustration with how little they know and well-founded fears about what he will face. She brings the wonder; he gives the cautious side. I am particular satisfied with how Vanessa’s arc progresses and resolves whatever Tobi might think.
There’s a sizable catch-up in the beginning to ground the reader in the international rules restricting human and magical interaction along with how these rules are falling to pieces before Tobi’s eyes. It would be an info dump, and technically is, but it provides necessary background in a humorous and quirky account that held my interest. We also learn a lot about Tobi’s feelings toward his job, both the magical aspects and the risk of obsession.
One reason I like the narrative style so much is because it reflects a refreshing attitude toward magic rather than being all about craving power whether for good or evil purposes. This is just a world where magic exists and is hidden from most humans. Someone has to investigate and clean up the mess when magic is abused.
Ultimately, the novella offers a fun read with a nice pair of main personalities who are very distinct, especially in their reactions to magic. There are interesting minor characters who are sometimes amusing in their eagerness to perform, whether the enthusiastic medical examiner or the magical cleaner crew getting to burn something down. The take on magic and the world adds to my enjoyment, making this a fitting addition to the series and an intriguing expansion beyond the Rivers of London.
P.S. I received this title from the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest read.