QUICK REVIEW: A Rare Book of Cunning Device – Ben Aaronovitch

Released as a free audiobook from Audible, A Rare Book of Cunning Device is the first story in Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London series to be written specifically for audio. Read by Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, who’s narrated all of the audiobooks in the series so far, it sees Peter investigating the report of a poltergeist in the British Library, at the request of the feisty Miss Winstanley, one of the librarians. Accompanied by Professor Postmartin and Toby the dog, they venture into the depths of the library in search of whatever has been moving books and other items around the cavernous basement.

At a little under thirty minutes it’s only a very short story, but it’s got a little bit of everything that makes this series so good. Peter’s dry sense of humour and occasional bafflement at family goings on, an interesting London landmark, Toby the dog, cleverly drawn supporting characters, and of course magical goings on…it’s all there. More than that, it’s brought to life beautifully by the warm, rich voice of Holdbrook-Smith, who perfectly captures Peter’s casual, conversational tone of voice and whose measured diction makes this an absolute joy to listen to. Narratively it’s pretty straightforward, but there’s nothing wrong with that – it’s half an hour of simple enjoyment, and worth every moment.

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