Reviews | Written by Ed Fortune 10/07/2019



The October Man is the latest instalment in Ben Aaronvitch’s extremely popular Rivers of London series but, unlike the rest of the series, does not feature Detective Peter Grant. Or the city of London. The October Man is instead set in Germany, and focuses on Tobias Winter. He is an agent of the part of Germany’s Federal Criminal Police Office that deals with supernatural affairs, known as the Abteilung KDA. It seems that because the English have more than one officially sanctioned mage in their employ, the Germans are now keeping pace.

Which means that, much like Peter, Tobias is an experienced policeman and a less than experienced practitioner of magic. Winter finds himself investigating a weird death in a vineyard in Mosel, and teams up with a local investigator, the practical and sensible Vanessa Sommer (and yes, the obvious joke is made - the narrative remarks on the coincidence, which is a nice way to put a lampshade on this seasonal gag). Winter’s set-up is familiar enough to regular readers, but just different enough to be fun.

Of course, we get the usual strange crime scene - this time it’s death by rapidly-growing fungus. As the pair investigate the crime, they uncover the ancient secrets of the time and the supernatural creatures who inhabit the region. Oh, and wine drinking, of course.

This is very much a Rivers of London story, despite being set nowhere near England’s greedy capital. In fact, if this was an episode of a TV show, you’d almost accuse it of being a pilot episode. It’s nice to see this world expand past the borders of London, and you do wonder what's going on elsewhere. An atlas of magic would be nice.

This is a novella and much of the storytelling suffers for this. It feels very much like a footnotes version of regular Peter Grant story, focusing on the broad strokes without much of the normal character development. This is a shame because Sommer and Winter are an interesting team, the latter especially being a fascinating take of the ‘ordinary copper’ style trope that these books do so well.

The October Man is a must for any fan of the series so far and, unusually, a good introduction to the series. It only marginally connects to the big plot of the main books, but does introduce all the core ideas and distinctive style. More please, and soon.