Audiobook Review: Tales From the Folly by Ben Aaronovitch
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 3 of 5 stars
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Peter Grant/Rivers of London
Publisher: Tantor Audio (October 7, 2020)
Length: 4 hrs and 50 mins
Narrators: Ben Aaronovitch, Ben Elliot, Felix Grainger, Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, Sam Peter Jackson, Alex Kingston, Shvorne Marks, Penelope Rawlins
I have been waiting a long time for an anthology like Tales from the Folly to come along. As much as I adore the Rivers of London series, many of the author’s short stories set in that world have slipped through the cracks. After all, it’s kind of hard to keep track when there are so many of them floating around, not to mention I’m not exactly a short fiction kind of person, so I lack the motivation to track each one down, especially when many of them could only be found in special Waterstones editions.
This is why collections like this are so handy; every previously published Rivers of London short story that is worth reading, plus a couple brand-new ones besides, are all gathered here in one convenient volume. As you will soon see from my in-depth analyses of each one below, I still vastly prefer the full-length novels, but I would nonetheless recommend Tales from the Folly to fans of the series who will no doubt find plenty of enjoyment and satisfaction in these bite-sized adventures. Each tale is also prefaced by a nifty introduction from Ben Aaronovitch providing plenty of fascinating background and context, so if nothing else, you should read this for a chance to revisit the world between the novels, catch up with the characters we know and love, and round out your Rivers of London experience.
The Home Crowd Advantage (3 stars)
Set in London during the 2012 Summer Olympic Games, this tale follows Peter Grant as he is called out to investigate a strange disturbance at a nearby café. This was a short and fun read, but ultimately lacking much interest or memorability. This story takes place early in Peter’s apprenticeship with Nightingale and references a few minor plot developments happening around the same time. Utilizing the Olympics as the backdrop was probably the main selling point, though.
The Domestic (3 stars)
This story opens with Peter being dispatched to the home of an elderly lady to look in on a case of suspected domestic abuse—except things are not as they seem. The premise to this one was great, and there was even a slight bit of underlying humor, but sadly it was over way too soon. The abrupt ending also gave this one an incomplete feel, which was a real shame.
The Cockpit (3.5 stars)
Peter and Lesley show up at a Waterstones after a number of strange occurrences were reported at the bookshop. This one was a charming little yarn, and I think book lovers will especially appreciate it. Again, I felt that it was way too short, but on the bright side, at least it felt complete, featuring a beginning, middle, and conclusion with a satisfying resolution.
The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Granny (3 stars)
During a brief stop at a service station, Peter comes across two men having a little bit of car trouble and offers to help. All Rivers of London stories work best when there are spooky things going on, and this one was no exception. Again, it’s not as memorable due to its short length, but I’m beginning to expect that at this point.
King of the Rats (2 stars)
A self-styled King of the Rats crashes a party hosted by Lady Tyburn and Fleet, and Peter is called in to investigate, naturally. I felt like this could have been the premise to a much longer book, one that would have been a lot better if fully fleshed out. As it was, I thought this was a pretty strange one, and not too engaging. Nothing was developed enough to really stick, sadly.
A Rare Book of Cunning Device (3.5 of 5 stars)
Peter is called out to the British Library to look into reports of a possible poltergeist, and along for the ride are Professor Harold Postmarten and our favorite ghost-hunting dog Toby. This is another one that book lovers will appreciate, especially if you enjoy a good mystery. Postmarten has always been a favorite side character of mine, and obviously I also love Toby. Again, a shame that this was over way too soon, and left me wanting more.
A Dedicated Follower of Fashion (2 stars)
This one is set in Earlsfield in 1967, following a drug dealer/luxury cloth smuggler who runs afoul of the river Wandle. It’s important to note that not all the stories in this collection feature Peter, and it is perhaps no surprise that I felt really disconnected from this one. Perfect example of a take-it-or-leave-it kind of tale.
Favourite Uncle (3.5 stars)
A sweet Christmas story about Abigail, Peter’s cousin and budding practitioner, who does a little bit of private detective work for a friend who asks her to investigate an uncle who only comes around once a year. Abigail has been getting a lot more attention in the main series lately, and I do want to see more of her, so a story centered around her character was most certainly welcome. Aaronovitch did a great job revealing more of her personality, and I also loved the dialogue.
Vanessa Sommer’s Other Christmas List (3 stars)
Related to The October Man novella, this story stars Vanessa Sommer, a police officer in Trier, Germany. Shortly after her transfer to the KDA, she spends Christmas at her parents and reexamines her childhood with a new perspective now that her eyes have been open to the world of magic. Readers get to learn a great deal about Vanessa’s background in this one, making it a must-read after The October Man if you want to find out more about her character.
Three Rivers, Two Husbands and a Baby (3 stars)
This was definitely more of a “world-building story”, examining the idea of genius loci with the birth of a new river in the form of a baby found and adopted by Victor and Dominic. It’s a decent enough story, even if entirely forgettable. Despite its throwaway nature though, I liked its heartwarming themes of family and friendship.
Moments One, Two, Three
At the end of this collection are three short pieces labeled “Moments” which were originally published on Aaronovitch’s website. These are certainly just moments, nothing more than snippets, really. Not much plot to speak of here, and personally I questioned the point of even including them in this collection, but I suppose it does give readers some insight into the mind of the author and his process for mood-setting and atmosphere building.
Audiobook Comments: Since several of the short stories here were originally released as audiobooks to begin with, I was thrilled to discover Tales from the Folly was also going to have an audio edition. Narrated by a diverse group of talented voice actors and actresses, along with commentary from Ben Aaronovitch himself, this audiobook was a great way to experience the collection. A special shoutout also to Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, who gave an awesome performance as Peter Grant. While I mostly read the print versions of the books in the Rivers of London series, the few times I was fortunate to listen to the audiobooks, I always enjoyed his work. There’s no doubt about it, he is the voice of this series.
More on The BiblioSanctum:
Review of Whispers Underground (Book 3)
Review of Broken Homes (Book 4)
Review of Foxglove Summer (Book 5)
Review of The Furthest Station (Book 5.7)
Review of The Hanging Tree (Book 6)
Review of Lies Sleeping (Book 7)
Review of False Value (Book 8)