Book Review: False Value by Ben Aaronovitch

Posted April 6, 2020 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 2 Comments

Book Review: False Value by Ben Aaronovitch

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

False Value by Ben Aaronovitch
Genres: Paranormal Fantasy, Police Procedural
Published by DAW Books on February 25, 2020
Pages: 304
Format: eBook
Source: the library

Buy on Amazon
Also by this author: Midnight Riot, Whispers Under Ground, Broken Homes, The Hanging Tree, "The Furthest Station", Lies Sleeping, "What Abigail Did That Summer"

Eighth in the Rivers of London police procedural paranormal fantasy series set in London (formerly known as the PC Peter Grant series) and revolving around Police Constable Peter Grant who has been with the SAU for three years now.

My Take

I was pretty confused for the first chunk of False Value. My brain flipped back and forth between: did I miss an installment and WTF? I certainly don’t remember Sahra getting engaged or going off to visit her fiancé’s family?? Nor about Foxglove joining The Folly. Nor about Peter getting suspended…??

Jeez, the corporation into which Peter has gone undercover is crazy!! Just read what the contract and probationary period required!? Then there’s the newbie day towel. Oh. Brother. Actually, you have to learn a whole new language at the Serious Cybernetics Corporation, what with information dispersal conclaves, a.k.a., briefings. Of course, The Folly has its versions, such as unscheduled spontaneous disassembly, a.k.a., unplanned explosions, lol.

Aaronovitch uses first person protagonist point-of-view from Peter’s perspective, so everything we read is what Peter experiences. That includes his thoughts on some of his past jobs. Poor baby.

“…come five Johnson insisted I clock out. … [because] ‘Tired people don’t do their jobs properly,’ he said, demonstrating one of the reasons why he’d left the police.”

Talking about past jobs, Stephen/Jacob’s back history is quite different from what I expected. Then Maksim’s back history gets some play.

Okay, well, then there are Beverley’s experiences with Peter, in that “He’s a world-class shagger.”

I love Aaronovitch’s acerbic sense of humor!

“It had been cold and gray when I set off, although occasionally the sun would peep out for a quick gloat before buggering off back behind a cloud for a sly cigarette…”

More of his humor was his description of the Vikings…crack. me. up.

“…the unmistakable approaching hubbub of the Terrence Skinner walking-around-show…”

Hmmm, that’s an interesting tie-in with Russian fake news. Another hmmm, is Nightingale realizing he’s not really very good at teaching magic theory. Although Peter’s okay, lol, with Nightingale experimenting with his magic theories on the legal group. Then there’s the snark about the filtering bed with its afterthought possibility as potable water in the developing world, *more laughter*.

No kidding! “…just follow the instructions… to make tasty soup … making delicious soup take skill…”

The pace was a combination of fast and slow…primarily because I got so confused at intervals, as Aaronovitch backtracked in some areas and left me floundering in others.

I did appreciate the dynamics between Beverley and Peter, especially when it came to their argument over the ultimate fate of Tyrel and Stacy. I’m anxious to find out what happens to them. I also enjoyed the historical bits about London’s rivers and how they got so bad.

Oh man, ya gotta love Victor’s theory on the true reason for the spread of Christianity. Tech support. Yep. All those churchmen who knew how to read and write.

Ooh, Nightingale mentions a project for his retirement, one that depends upon Peter…and this is but one of the many bits of possible foreshadowing Aaronovitch throws out at us. It’s so encouraging…lol…

The Story

The Folly is getting spruced up, and Peter is quite grateful that he’s moved in with Beverley.

It certainly helps with his undercover assignment at the Serious Cybernetics Corporation where he’s meant to find the rat. And finds so very much more.

The Characters

Detective Constable (DC) Peter Grant is an apprentice wizard with the SAU. He’s moved in with Beverley Brook, his girlfriend five-months pregnant with twins, a.k.a., the Bulge, the daughter of the River Thames, and the genius loci for the Beverley Brook. They want to get married, but getting married to a goddess has issues. Beverley is working on her dissertation: “The Environmental Benefits of Waterway Reversion”. Maksim, a former Russian mobster, is Beverley’s volunteer handyman, bodyguard, and acolyte.

Peter’s dad is a jazz musician, Richard “Lord” Grant, and his mum is from the Fula tribe in Sierra Leone and fluent in Krio. Bev’s family includes her sister Fleet, the goddess of the River Fleet.

The London Police

The Special Assessment Unit (SAU) is…
…an official police nick that deals strictly with magic located in The Folly, a Regency building first used as a meeting place for the Society of the Wise. Detective Chief Inspector (DCI) Thomas Nightingale is in charge as commander of SAU and de facto president of the Society of the Wise. Molly is the creepy live-in housekeeper, cook, and demon deterrent; Foxglove is like Molly and now the Folly’s artist-in-residence (Lies Sleeping, 7). The Tech Cave is where Peter keeps all the technology — magic is hell on tech. Fifteen-year-old Abigail Kamara is Nightingale’s apprentice, an unpaid intern, and Peter’s cousin. Toby is the ghost hunting dog (Midnight Riot, 1). Sergeant Anthony Finnegan is new and one of the custody sergeants. The Folly’s former underground shooting range is now a suite of cells surrounded by the Magical Suppression Area field. Dr Abdul Haqq Walid, cryptopathologist, and Dr Jennifer Vaughan, his assistant, are The Folly’s medical officers and very interested in what magic does to the brain. Professor Harold Postmartin, D.Phil, FRS, is their resident archivist and a noted classicist.

David Mellenby had been a friend of Nightingale’s and the closest The Folly ever had to a modern research scientist who had postulated that there were other planes of existence, allokosmoi, from which Fae, practitioners, and others pulled power and influence.

The National Crime Agency
Officer Alona Silver worked with Peter on a previous case; she has a double first in Psychology and Sociology from Bradford University. Operation Fretwork??

The Metropolitan
Detective Inspector (DI) Mariam Stephanopoulos is firmly married. DCI Alexander Seawoll. Detective Sergeant Sahra Guleed, a Somali, has frequently partnered with Peter over the past three years. Michael Cheung was The Folly’s liaison in Chinatown who teaches fencing as well as Sahra’s fiancé. They’re just back from visiting his family in Hong Kong. PC Robert Maginty had been with the Medway Community Safety Unit in Kent and is now the official liaison to SAU.

The Serious Cybernetics Corporation

The owner is Terrence Skinner, a.k.a., the Über-hobbit, a celebrity Silicon Valley entrepreneur. Emil is his chef. Deep Thought is the name of the computer.

Tyrel “Tyson” Johnson is the head of security. The official name for security is “Vogon Enforcement Arm” with its “agents” known as “Vogons”. Leo Hoyt is a fellow Vogon. HR’s official name is “Magrathean Ape-Descended Life Form Utilization Service”. Those employees who do the computing are “mice”. Victor, the snippety Harvey “Everest” Window (he’s officially the Chief Wowbagger who tests code, which translates as SRE and QA) who is based in Golgafrincham, Dennis Yoon, Ellis, Declan “Princeton” Genzlinger who works behind the locked door in Bambleweeny, Ian Cobwright, and William Lloyd, a software engineer, are some of the mice.

The Cage is a hangout space for the mice. Babelphones are the only mobile phones allowed in the office. Betelgeuse is the northernmost building of the complex; its top two floors are the Bambleweeny floors and off limits. Lamuella is a meeting room in Betelgeuse. Milliways is the executive staff refreshment room.

Tyrel is married to Stacy Carter, a stay-at-home mum (and an ex-copper) who fosters at-risk kids. Keira Slater and Oliver Partridge, who had been in a secure psychiatric unit, are her current fosterlings, via Wandsworth.

Beverley is friends with Sung-Hoon (he works for Hyundai) and Eun-Ju Ree, the relatives with whom Dennis Yoon is lodging. A former Internet cafe by Gillingham Station employed Baz (Barry Collard), Yax, JC, the crazy but quick-thinking Jade, a.k.a., Julie Hunt, and Solid.

Total Executive Cover is…
…a show business-oriented bodyguard service founded by Ben Arad, an extra and a stuntman. September Rain, a.k.a., Ms Side-eye and Sylvia Makowicz, is one of Skinner’s bodyguards. Bradley Michael Smith III appears to be another bodyguard.

The London Library was founded by Thomas Carlyle in 1840. Today, Susan works there as a librarian. Stephen Higgins is with the Magrathea department at the library. Cherise Desroche is a curator at today’s Science Museum.

Agent Kimberley Reynolds has worked with Peter on other cases. Officially she works for the Office of Partnership Engagement and is semi-officially their department for weird stuff (Whispers Under Ground, 3; The Hanging Tree, 6; and, Lies Sleeping, 7).

The GRU is…
…also known as Russian Military Intelligence, although they’ve changed their acronym to GU. Antem Sergeyevich Yershov is a mid-tier oligarch. I loved Aaronovitch’s definition of mid-tier!

The Librarians are…
…an organization within the New York Public Library. They cover the five boroughs, parts of New Jersey, and anything upstate if it starts to smell. Their mission is to collect dangerous magical artifacts and lock them away. The New York Libraries Association, a.k.a., the Association, is the military magical wing of the New York Public Library Services. The Green Machine is the AFSCME, the union to which most mundane librarians belong. Jacob Astor is an undercover agent for the Librarians. Patricia Chin, Chief Librarian, 020:131, is a practitioner and a member of the Ordo Machinis Spectandis.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs holds magical jurisdiction over the reservations. The squids are a fringe practitioner group based out of San Francisco or Portland. The legal group, Bock, Loupe and Stag, were forced to swear an oath in Lies Sleeping. Former PC Lesley May had been Peter’s best mate before she picked up that mental hitchhiker, Mr Punch. Mitchel West is in Acquisitions with Guffland Entertainment. PrettyPrint is a chain of high-street printers. Mrs Chaudry is Stephen/Jacob’s neighbor. F*ckTheresaMay678 is a blog of grievances against the police. Miss Karmargi, an avowed atheist, had been Peter’s Religious Education teacher at school.

Anthony Lane was the active shooter at an obscure tech start-up in San Jose. One of the dead employees was an intern, Branwell Petersen, an MIT graduate and former Microsoft employee. The responding officer had been Lisa Perez. A similar situation occurred in the shooting death of John Chapman at a petrol station in Cleveland, Ohio.

The demi-monde are…
…composed of Fae of all kinds, those who want to be, and those who have been affected by the Fae. The Librarians call them shades. One of these groups are the showmen who winter over at the Vale of Health, a former malarial swamp. Henry “Wicked” Collins is one of them, and he reports to Peter about a crime involving a Gavioli fairground organ. The Enchantress of Numbers is a music book. Joseph Marie Jacquard, a French weaver, invented the first punch cards.

Falcon is code for magic-involved crime. Vestigium / vestigia is the trace left behind by the supernatural. Signare is the unique quality every practitioner gives to their work, their signature. Forma is how you think the magic into action. A Mary Engine is thought to be a machine for generating magic in industrial quantities. Rose Jars, named for Rosemarie Louise Moreno of New Orleans, are devices for capturing ghosts. A demon trap was first invented by the Vikings, and it’s a magical landmine. Casterbrook is the English prep school of witchcraft and wizardry which Nightingale attended. Hyperthaumaturgical degradation is the damage magic does to your brain. Practitioners are magic users, and their magic is all about thought and control.

The Genii loci are…
…the spirits of a place and get their power from their surroundings. The genius loci for Regent’s Canal is a female orangutan who escaped from the London Zoo in the 1950s. Melvin is now the estate manager for the Goddess of the Canals whom I think is the monkey. Emanuel Hogsmill is a lawyer by day and the god of the local river all the time.

Ada Lovelace, the daughter of Lord Byron, was a mathematician and said to be the first ever computer programmer. Charles Babbage, a 19th century pioneer of mechanical calculation, had an idea for the first universal computing machine. The Lilly (might have been Mary Somerville) and the Rose (who might have been Rosemarie Louise Moreno) were two female practitioners. The Gavioli family was famous for being organ makers. Ludovico Gavioli was said to be the business brains behind the family. Ludovico’s son, Anselme, patented a system to read music books. The Crystal Palace was a showcase at the Great Exhibition of 1851. Elizabeth Montague was a bluestocking and famous society hostess in London. AGI is an artificial intelligence that can pass the Turing test.

Operation Spatchcock occurred…
…seventy years ago during World War II at Grosse Etterberg. Able Company, the magical strike team assigned to take the camp headquarters and research lab, didn’t have time to take the files intact. Instead they were dumped willy-nilly into the gliders. It means the forbidden material of the Ahnenerbe — the Black Library — is mixed up with routine camp records. Baker Company were the practitioners assigned to liberate the inmates. But Baker ran into the men and tanks of the SS Panzergrenadiers in company strength that included things that were not men nor tanks. Their aim appeared to be to prevent the English from reaching the inmates. Hugh Oswald, who had been with Patton and the Third Army when they liberated Buchenwald, had been one of the survivors.

The Cover and Title

The cover is black on the top half and the bottom half is a brilliant green of map lines of the City of London with white dots that vary in size pinpointing the subway stations. I’m guessing that the black hole in the middle of the “map” is the Thames Estuary?? It certainly provides an excellent background for the series information that’s in a blend of white and green text. At the very top is an info blurb in that same blend of white and green. The author’s name is below that in white while the fancy, waving title is in the green. Just to keep things interesting, green line drawings of events in the story float around the title.

I think the title refers to Peter, for he’s False Value in so many ways for the Serious Cybernetics Corporation.

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