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THE OCTOBER MAN BY BEN AARONOVITCH

We have gathered all the fantastic reviews our Book Club Members have sent us this month.

Click on each name to read the review. If you would like to become part of the Viking Book Club, sign up sign up here >>

REVIEWS

Stephen Flatt

Ben Aaronovitch has been a travelling companion of mine over a number of cruises; I have thoroughly enjoyed being immersed in the world of Peter Grant and discovering the mysterious creatures who inhabit the rivers, forests and other dark places in the Rivers of London series. However, I found October Man to be disappointing; maybe it was because of unfamiliar characters and surroundings but I struggled to engage with Tobias Winter and Vanessa Sommer. The story I felt to be thin and the plot predictable - even a fascination with viniculture even failed to draw me in to the world that Aaronovitch was creating. There were some nice touches in the story; I enjoyed the encounter with Gunter and, if there are further books in the series, I would hope that his character is fleshed out further. Also, the Special Circumstances Team and their work is something of which I would want to see more. And I must admit I knew nothing of the work of Ferdinand Tietz and have taken pleasure in learning something of him and his extensive creations. Having been harsh in my criticism of this work I remain a loyal Aaronovitch reader and were he to continue this series I would certainly carry on reading. Also, I will reread this particular book because part of the reason for my disappointment is unfamiliarity with the people and places and a second reading may well reveal depths that I failed to notice the first time round!

Carolyn Gowdy

Although I had heard of the author, I hadn’t realised that The October Man fell into the category of “urban fantasy” and that is not the type of novel that I would usually choose to read. However Ben Aaronovitch’s style and characterisation are so engaging that I found myself instantly swept up into his fantasy world, thoroughly enjoying the excitement of the situation, despite the inclusion of river goddesses and spirit children. His protagonist the magic investigator detective Tobias Winter is believably drawn, along with his downright sceptical police liaison support Vanessa Sommer, so that I was quickly involved in the excitement of a murder investigation which leads back into lost centuries. The victim’s body is found covered in an unusual fungal growth which had spread to his lungs causing his death- it is thought he had been deliberately infected using the “noble rot” method of viniculture. But this is only the first in a series of violent events. The evocatively described setting of the ancient German city of Trier with its river and surrounding vineyards creates a major part of the book’s appeal. Grape harvesting and wine-making provide a suitable background for an easy (and short) holiday read and for everyone who likes a murder mystery, it’s worth giving it a go!

Ed Davies

As someone who enjoys a good ‘Who Done It’ and the fact that the story was based in Germany, a country I have loved cruising in with Viking I could not wait to get started. I must confess to being a little apprehensive when realising that Ben Aaronvitch’s novella contained a science fiction twist. However once I started reading it I found myself believing in the main characters of Tobi and Vanessa and found it an easy and interesting plot to follow. The book is a light hearted approach to what can sometimes be a very dark subject, and certainly stretches the reader’s imagination. The story flowed along quite nicely and I read it cover to cover in one afternoon.

Marilyn McDonnell

Ben Aaronovitch is well known for his River of London series. His detective Peter Finch solves murders and is much loved by readers. The October Man, a novella belongs to the same series but is set in Germany instead of London. I have not read the previous books and felt that there were links that I didn’t appreciate or understand. In Germany a dead body is found, dying of a fungal invasion. The detective investigating is a new character called Tobias Winter. So far so good. A detective story, which will be solved before more die. But then I read that the detective, Tobias, has magical powers which help him to solve cases. This for me didn’t ring true. The book is written in a very straight forward style and not at all magical. I found that I could not marry the two ideas together and found it really difficult to enjoy or even finish the book.

Helen Gatenby

I have never read any of Ben Aaronvitch’s books. It is a genre of book that I would not normally have picked. However, I was instantly engaged with the different magical twist to a basic ‘who dunnit’. The tale unfolds with well written wit and magical intrigue which kept my interest until the end. Unfortunately I found the conclusion to the story weaker than the rest of the book and left me with a feeling that the author wished to finish the story in a hurry. Even taking into account my disappointment in the style of the ending I would try other books by this author.

Caroline Maddison

I am a fan of Mr Aaronovitch’s novels so I was thrilled when this title arrived from the Viking Book Club. Aaronovitch writes books that do not readily fit into a box. They are detective stories that have a magical twist and if you have not previously been bitten by this strange mix, this one is a good place to start. The novella is set in the Mosel Valley near Trier and has an easy style. It combines humorous and sharp writing with a genuine feel for the area. The descriptions place you firmly in the steep, shaly vineyards as the vines are starting to ripen and the tale is a perfect combination of history, legend, magic and detective story. Aaronovitch personalises rivers; he gives them a character with human failings and emotions. There are subtle references to his other books and stories but it does not detract if you miss them; the story stands alone very satisfactorily. If you enjoy Terry Pratchett, Jasper Fforde or Douglas Adams then I would recommend giving Aaronovitch a try.

A Viking Book Club Member

An unusual ‘take’ on the murder mystery genre. The idea that there are spirits and gods living and working amongst ordinary folk is so intriguing and that there is a department in the police force who not only investigate their unusual crimes but can actually cast magic spells! So often in novels the main detective is driven and weighed down with secrets and trauma but Tobias Winter seems normal with a sense of humour and a working relationship with his colleagues. This story is set in and around the town of Trier in Germany. I have visited in this area in the past so this charming story evoked fond memories. The descriptions for the town and the countryside with the vineyards and river are rich and engaging. I love the easy style that the author writes making the story flow and so addictive. I would highly recommended anyone to read this clever, witty and delightful novel. I have enjoyed this book and have now started to read ‘The Rivers of London’ novels which are just as good.

Julie Griffiths

Not normally a genre of book I would read, I approached this thriller with some reservation particularly as it also contains elements of magic and the supernatural. The plot centres around a vineyard in Trier in the Mosel valley and opens with a body being found in a culvert at the bottom of a vineyard. Tobias Winter, a policeman with the Federal Criminal Police (in the department dealing with matters of a complex nature including magic) is assigned to the case as the body is covered in an unusual mould and is deemed to be a bio hazard. His liaison officer in Trier is Vanessa Sommer. Together they unearth historic connections to a river goddess and her mortal husband, their child and a jealous black sorcerer whose spirit has been awoken by the return of the vineyard’s new owner from California who intends to start the business again after inheriting it from her grandfather and finally a group of middle-aged men who have formed the Good Wine Drinking Association. My advice is to suspend reality for a few hours and enjoy this light-hearted thriller. Written with a deft hand and humour it can be read at one sitting. A knowledge of German is useful to pick up a few nuances but is not necessary – a perfect choice for a quiet afternoons reading onboard ship. I would definitely not have gone out to buy this book as I generally enjoy something a bit more weighty but did find it fun to read and may now access a few more of Ben Aaronovitch’s writing so offering to review a book does give one the chance of reading something very different from one’s usual preferences.

Yvonne Mastaglio

The above book was a combination of Harry Potter with a sprinkling of regular police involvement. A bit too left field for me, I thought. Fantasy themes are not my favourite genre. I just couldn't get into the minds of these extremely varied characters. I like mine to be a bit more down to earth and believable. I'm sure, though, people that are into fantasy will love this but sadly, it wasn't for me.

Amanda Hargreaves

The October Man is a very well written and entertaining magical mystery novella set in Trier, Germany. Trier is a very old city and so too, it transpires, are the origins of strange goings on in the present day. A body covered is found covered in fungal rot and the local police are stumped. They need extra help and due to the unusual circumstances the Abteilung KDA, Germany's supernatural police agency, are drafted in, Our main character, Tobias Winter, is an investigator at the Abteilung KDA as well as being an official magic practitioner. He is assigned an assistant from the local force, Vanessa Sommer. Tobias and Vanessa work the case using a mixture of normal detective work and the careful use of Tobias’s magic skills and knowledge. Along the way they and you meet interesting normal and supernatural characters. Vanessa and Tobias develop an excellent and fruitful professional relationship, especially as Vanessa has a of knowledge of the workings of the local Mosel wine industry. This is a very easy to read and often amusing tale. Tobias and Vanessa make a great team who doubtless will feature in future investigations.

Bob Dinsmore

I am always interested in attempting to read a novel that I would not normally have picked from a bookstore. I was therefore initially excited to have a copy arrive through my letterbox, and furthermore the thickness and text size, led me to believe that the read would be of little challenge for me. This did however prove me wrong, taking almost four weeks to complete, and to me an exhaustive read. The book appeared to lack any detailed structure and the author's liberal use of the Germanic interpretation of the various sections of the police did little excite my passion for understanding the said plot and its final outcome. But on a positive side it gave me an appreciation of the city of Trier. Perhaps I should engage myself to read the River of London's series of books which I don't doubt would have set the scene for me to appreciate the author's style of writing.

Christopher Hulston

A very easy and enjoyable short read - found it difficult to put down. An ideal holiday read, especially on the Rhine River Cruise where you could imagine the magic and mystery involved in this German detective story as you pass by the vineyards.

Matthew Shaw

Let's face it, magic exists and that means that there are good and bad practitioners. That means that you need a branch of the police which is equipped to deal with the criminal fraternity of practitioners of magic! Set amongst the vineyards of Koblenz, this book introduces the German magic police and links to the wider Rivers of London series. It's only a short book which doesn't allow the characters to develop very well nor for much sense of pace or location. Against that it's a decent enough romp through a detective story with an added twist of magic and revenge to give it a different angle. I went and bought the first of the Rivers of London series as I read this book (mainly to give myself some context of what was going on as I don't think this book stood alone very well). Tobias Winter is a likeable character as the detective and the resurgence of the river spirits offers intrigue for future books in the line. I recommend this as a non-demanding holiday book - possibly perfect for a cruise along the Rhine and Mosel where the book is set. It certainly made me hungry to go wine tasting and experience this beautiful region of Germany again!