Enjoyable Read with a Great Finish
As with most urban fantasy, I feel the need to somehow make a reference to the Dresden Files, which stands (for most people) at the pinnacle of the genre. Early into the series, it is difficult not to compare the two. Dresden is a PI who happens to be a wizard - Peter Grant is a Police Constable who happens to be a wizard. Vampires, trolls and magical being inhabit their worlds. Now, four books into the series, Ben Aaronovitch clearly sets himself apart from Dresden and his clones.
Don't read this series expecting a Dresden like wizard. Peter Grant is apprentice with more wits than magic at his disposal. While Chief Inspector Nightingale, Peter's "master" is a wizard of the highest order, he rarely displays his skills. Magic has little to no connection to the occult but is approached from the perspective of science. For me, the most enjoyable aspect of this series is how Peter Grant spends considerable time experimenting and using the scientific method to explain how magic works.
If you are reading the 4th in the series, you probably know everything I mentioned above and just want to know about Broken Homes
On with it....
Let's start with the bad. In the first three, I have little bad to say about the novels. While I enjoyed the book enough to give it 4 stars, there were elements of the book that were less than 4 star worthy.
The Plot - Unlike it predecessors, the plot was not nearly as taunt nor did it move as briskly. In some ways, the previous three could stand on their own. You could pick up number 2 or 3 and while you would be missing some background, the main story was self-sustaining. In Broken Homes
, you most definitely need to have read the previous novels. The story involves, in large part, plot elements from the previous three novels are the central focus of the mystery. It appears that books 4 is serving to set up and further the arch villain character for future stories.
Fantasy Elements - While the series is always lighter on the Fantasy elements than the Dresden files or Alex Verus novels, the fantasy elements take a step back. There is little interaction with anything mythical/mystical/magical beings nor is there much improvement in Peter's skills. That said, we see some display of Nightingale's abilities and I think that Harry Dresden would be a bit nervous.
On the positive side, the writing is still the wonder dry British humour you expect with more than one laugh out loud moment.
While there are less creature and beings, the are more wizards and more magical mortal enemies to deal with. This was enjoyable as it lead to a few battle scene with other humans.
The best part of the novel was the last 1/4. It ends with a great cliff-hanger that leaves you asking questions, rationalizing and anticipating book 5.
Overall, this a series I recommend. A mystery/crime/police procedural with elements of urban fantasy.