Review: The October Man by Ben Aaronovitch

The October Man (Rivers of London #7.5), by Ben Aaronovitch, Subterranean Press, May 2019

By Lis Carey: This entry in Rivers of London is, for variety, set in Germany, and involves a German river. Or two. And river goddesses.

Tobias Winter is an investigator for Abteilung KDA, the German version of Britain’s Folly. He’s on leave when he gets summoned to Trier, to investigate a possible “infraction.” A man has been found dead, his body completely covered by a strange fungus, which has also invaded his lungs, causing his death.

(Tobias is Germany’s equivalent of Peter Grant, not Thomas Nightingale; he’s the relatively new practitioner recruited because “you can’t trust the British to keep an agreement over the long term.” Yes, there’s competition and distrust between the magical law enforcement operations of Britain and Germany.)

Tobias Winter’s liaison with the Trier police is Vanessa Sommer, who is intelligent, ambitious, and very interested when she learns that Tobi can actually do magic.

Sommer is also her unit’s expert on wine and the local wine industry, more by accident than intention, and the dead man was found near a winery, and was a member of a social group called The Good Wine Drinking Association — half a dozen middle-aged men whose lives were at a standstill in various ways. The fungus is one that is sometimes used in the wine industry.

Winter and Sommer are soon visiting the winery. The owner is the granddaughter of the last man to run it as a working winery, and has spent years in California learning the ways of the California wine industry. This doesn’t include her grandfather’s annual gift of wine to the local river goddess, Kelly, goddess of the River Kyll.

Investigation includes talking to Kelly, to the kindergarten-age new goddess of another river, to every surviving member of the Good Wine Drinking Association — and investigating a court scandal from more than a thousand years ago, when Kelly had taken a mortal lover.

There are more deaths, and the deaths have the inconvenient effect of eliminating suspects while not helping them zero in on the real killer, who might be an illegal practitioner, or something more frightening.

I like the characters, the story is interesting, intricate and satisfying. It’s also quite fun to get the German perspective on the British and the Folly, including Tobias’ study of every detail the Germans have on Detective Constable Peter Grant. It seems there’s a lot of possibility for both rivalry and cooperation between the two magical law enforcement organizations. I’d really like to see some of that.


I received this book as a gift and am reviewing it voluntarily.

6 thoughts on “Review: The October Man by Ben Aaronovitch

  1. Finally, a series where denial could be a river in/from Egypt! (I’ve read all in the series so far, all great stuff. A lot of buildings and stuff get seriously blowned up, but probably nowhere as bad as in any Marvel or DC movie…)

  2. Thanks for another good review, Lis Carey. Like you, I particularly enjoyed Winter’s outside view of Peter Grant as mighty magician, in strong contrast to Peter’s view of himself as just bumbling along.
    I also liked Aaronovitch’s ability to write in another voice for Tobias (and Abigail, come to that) to the one he’s built for Peter.

  3. In some ways, it’s a bit more impressive with Tobias, who could so easily have just been a German Peter Grant, because that’s literally the position he’s in.

    On the other hand, I’m old enough to remember when I cringed every time a male writer tried to write a female character of any age from the inside of that character’s head, and Aaronovitch does it convincingly with a teenage girl. Darned impressive.

  4. Pingback: Review: Tales from the Folly: A Rivers of London Short Story Collection by Ben Aaronovitch | File 770

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