Ben Aaronovitch's The October Man has less emphasis on the supernatural than his previous works

Ben Aaronovitch has assembled a significant global following - and sales of over two million copies - with his '"Rivers of London" series, which blends supernatural crime and dry British humour.

The October Man, a novella, sees Aaronovitch moving locale from London to Trier in Germany.

Tobias Winter, a German police officer trained in magic, works for the Abteilung KDA, the "Complex and Diffuse Matters" Department, which is Germany's version of London police supernatural crime unit, 'The Folly".

Winters is one of the few officially sanctioned police magic experts in Germany.

He says he "ended up learning magic because you can't trust the British to keep an agreement over the long term".

Perhaps a reference to the Brexit breakdown! The way magic has evolved is different in Germany, in part because of an occult battle with the Nazis.

Winter turns out to be a blander version of Aaronovitch's main character in the Rivers series, Peter Grant.

Winter is aware of Grant, though not vice versa, which perhaps foreshadows Grant's interaction with him in a future book.

Winter is teamed with local detective and wine specialist Vanessa Sommer (it is just as well we don't get Herr Spring and Frau Autumn) to investigate a "suspicious death with unusual biological characteristics".

The dead body is covered in grey fur, which turns out to be fungal noble rot, used in wine production around Trier.

The botrytis fungus had spread to the lungs and stopped the victim breathing.

A tattoo of the face of Dionysus, the Greek god of wine, on the murder victim's upper arm leads Winter and Sommer to a local wine group and the possibility that the murder may involve an evil revenent.

The investigations leads Winter to summon Kelly, goddess of the River Kyll, by dropping vintage bottles of wine into the river.

When they meet, she brings along a precocious five year-old French-speaking girl, Morgane, who is the new goddess of the Mosul River.

Their interactions constitute one of the major highlights of the book.

There is, however, less supernatural verve than usual in The October Man.

It's more of a whodunnit, with amusing side reflections on German bureaucracy and local wine production and customs.

Aaronovitch quotes Goethe "that life is too short to drink bad wine".

The October Man novella will probably be too short, textually, for Aaronovitch enthusiasts, but it certainly leaves a rich and satisfying aftertaste.

  • Colin Steele is a Canberra reviewer.
This story The October Man is a whodunit with less of a 'supernatural' spin first appeared on The Canberra Times.