|Date Published||06 July 2021|
When a BMW turns into a watery grave for its owner, river goddess Beverley Brook tips off copper Peter Grant that there might be more to this than just an accident and sets him on a collision course with a murderous car.
The Rivers of London graphic novels are a superb complement
to the books and novellas in this ever-entertaining series, bringing the world
of the Folly and its inhabitants even more vividly to life – and yes, trust me,
that is possible. The Folly, for those who haven’t yet dipped their toes in
these magical waters, is the home of those members of the Metropolitan police
who deal with ‘Falcon cases’, the codename anything connected to magic and the
supernatural, more colloquially known as ‘weird shit’.
Body Work was the first of the graphic novels to appear, and
this new edition is a visually gorgeous addition to any fan’s bookshelf. The
original artwork is faithfully reproduced on the right-hand page of this
hardback volume, but without the overlay of the text panels. All this, together
with a brief description of the panel and each of the captions, is set out on
the left-hand page, frequently accompanied by one or two of the original
uncoloured panels and, occasionally a reference photo. The latter are a
particular delight, showing how closely the stories are tied to real places in
London and how perfectly the cityscape has been reproduced.
I was struck, yet again, by how evocative the colouring is,
starting with an eerie underwater scene as a man dies in a BMW that’s rapidly
sinking into the Thames. In the final panel, river goddess Beverley Brook’s
face can be seen reflected in the windscreen, looking both surprised and sad.
The following panel with its corresponding text provides the reference photo of
the view of Putney Bridge from the nearby Embankment, amply demonstrating how
faithfully the detail of the bridge has been reproduced. The Met police
recovery vehicle provides a splash of orange detail in an otherwise gloomily
As DI Miriam Stephanopoulos and Sahra Guleed of the Major
Investigation Team stare lugubriously at the dripping car and its very dead
inhabitant, PC Peter Grant, the most junior member of the Folly, slouches in,
hands in his pockets, looking deceptively casual. Stephanopoulos looks
sceptical when Peter dodges her question about how he heard about the death and
Peter doesn’t reveal that it’s his occasional girlfriend, Beverley Brook, who’s
tipped him off. Talk of river goddesses tends to make senior officers faintly
uneasy, as does being around members of the Folly.
The handy Reader’s Guide at the back of the book shows each
of the books, graphic novels and novellas by their covers, on a section of a
map of the Thames. From this it can be seen that Body Work slots into the
series after the fourth full-length novel, Broken Homes, and before Foxglove
Summer. By now, Peter is reasonably experienced in the delicate handling that
weird shit often requires, but there’s nothing delicate about being repeatedly
attacked by a murderous, haunted car. Despite the strangeness of a story that
spans half a century, this sort of thing is now all in a day’s work for Peter
and, as usual, Guleed copes with everything that’s thrown at them with
With graphic novels, there’s always an extent of ‘your
mileage may vary’ with regard to the depiction of much-loved characters, but
for me, every one of them absolutely hits the right spot, especially the smart,
urbane Inspector Thomas Nightingale, Peter’s boss and mentor in the art of
magic, and also Peter himself, Guleed, Toby the dog and Molly, the Folly’s
sinister housekeeper. I don’t have a single quibble with any of them and was
absolutely happy to wallow in the rich, deep colouring and the sharply-drawn
panels, all of them perfectly capturing the scenes described on each facing
page. The effect was like reading an illustrated script, and the explanatory
details all added a rich, additional layer to this gorgeous deluxe hardback.
I particularly enjoyed the flashback scenes to Nightingale
at war in 1944 and the iconic moment when a Tiger Tank loses to him at the
fabled Battle of Ettersburg. The flames emerging from the tank combine with
smoke and dark clouds to form a fiery face and tell you all you need to know
about Nightingale’s power as a magical practitioner in one hard-hitting,
terrifyingly vivid panel.
Even if you already have Body Work, I wouldn’t hold back from indulging in this volume as a rare treat. It’s well worth having.
Reviewed 25 July 2021 by Linda Wilson