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Ben Dylan Aaronovitch (born February 1964) is an English author and screenwriter.
Rivers of London (2011; American edition title: Midnight Riot)
- All page numbers are from the American mass market first edition, ISBN 978-0-345-52425-6, 4th printing
- Could it have been anyone, or was it destiny? When I’m considering this I find it helpful to quote the wisdom of my father, who once told me, “Who knows why the fuck anything happens?”
- Chapter 1, “Material Witness” (pp. 2-3)
- I wasn’t ready to believe in ghosts, but that’s the thing about empirical experience: it’s the real thing.
- Chapter 2, “Ghost Hunting Dog” (p. 26)
- She had the startled rabbit look that civilians get after five minutes of helping the police with their inquiries. If they stay calm for too long it’s a sign that they’re professional villains or foreign or just plain stupid. All of which can get you locked up if you’re not careful. If you find yourself talking to the police, my advice is to stay calm but look guilty; it’s your safest bet.
- Chapter 2, “Ghost Hunting Dog” (p. 38)
- “I’ve been told to take the day off,” said Leslie. “Compassionate—don’t get on media’s radar—leave.”
That I could understand. A family annihilation involving charismatic rich people was going to be a news editor’s dream story. Once they’d picked over the gruesome details, they could extend the mileage by asking what the tragic death of the Coopertown family told us about our society and how this tragedy was an indictment of modern culture/secular humanism/political correctness/the situation in Palestine—delete where applicable. About the only thing that could improve the story would be the involvement of a good-looking blonde WPC out, I might add, unsupervised on a dangerous assignment.
- Chapter 3, “The Folly” (p. 59)
- Questions would be asked. Answers would be ignored.
- Chapter 3, “The Folly” (p. 59)
- It’s a bland box of a building built in the 1970s; it was considered to be so lacking in architectural merit that there was talk of listing it so that it could be preserved for posterity as an awful warning.
- Chapter 5, “Action at a Distance” (p. 92)
- My hand was shaking a little and the pin proved harder to pull than I expected—I guess that’s a safety feature on a grenade.
- Chapter 5, “Action at a Distance” (p. 101)
- I’m not a peacock, but on occasion I like to dress to impress, although like most coppers I don’t wear much in the way of bling. The rule being never wear something around your neck that you don’t want to be strangled with.
- Chapter 6, “The Coach House” (p. 128)
- “Your father,” I said. “What does he really want?”
“What any father wants,” said Oxley. “The respect of his children.”
I nearly said that not all fathers were worthy of respect, but I managed to keep my gob shut and anyway not everyone had a dad like mine.
- Chapter 7, “The Puppet Fayre” (p. 143)
- As a typical Londoner, Gurcan had a high tolerance threshold for random thoughtlessness; after all, if you live in the big city there’s no point complaining that it’s a big city, but even that tolerance has its limit.
- Chapter 7, “The Puppet Fayre” (p. 150)
- Sometimes when someone tells you not to go somewhere, it’s better not to go there.
- Chapter 9, “The Judas Goat” (p. 189)
- “Do you have another plan?” I asked.
“No,” said Leslie. “I just want you to be careful. Just because you think you know what you’re doing doesn’t mean you actually know what you’re doing.”
“I’m glad we clarified that,” I said.
- Chapter 9, “The Judas Goat” (p. 192)
- There we continued the time-honored tradition of brazenly lying through our teeth while telling nothing but the truth.
- Chapter 10, “The Blind Spot” (p. 210)
- Apparently he was a bit of a connoisseur, having been introduced to Verdi soon after having risen to the rank of commander. A sudden attack of culture snobbery is a common affliction among policemen of a certain rank and age; it’s like a normal midlife crisis, only with more chandeliers and foreign languages.
- Chapter 10, “The Blind Spot” (p. 210)
- Nobody likes a riot except looters and journalists.
- Chapter 12, “The Last Resort” (p. 245)
- Nobody had a clue what had happened, so the pundits were out in force, explaining how the riot was caused by whatever sociopolitical factor their latest book was pushing. It was certainly a searing indictment of some aspect of modern society—if only we knew what.
- Chapter 12, “The Last Resort” (p. 268)
- Given that he was writing in the late eighteenth century, I like to cut him slack.
- Chapter 13, “London Bridge” (p. 271)
- “Lives to act, poor thing, it’s all he ever wanted out of life.”
“Except he’s dead,” I said.
“I know,” said Mr. Punch. “Isn’t the universe wonderful.”
- Chapter 13, “London Bridge” (p. 280)
- “Have you ever been to London?” I asked.
“No,” said Ash. “I’ve never even been in town before. Our dad doesn’t hold with that sort of thing.”
“Don’t worry, it’s basically just like the country,” I said. “Only with more people.”
- Chapter 14, “The Job” (p. 298; closing words)
Moon Over Soho (2011)
- All page numbers are from the American mass market first edition, ISBN 978-0-345-52459-1, 3rd printing
- Men have died for this music. You can’t get more serious than that.
- It’s a sad fact of modern life that if you drive long enough, sooner or later you must leave London behind.
- Chapter 1, “Body and Soul” (p. 1)
- “You can’t die of jazz,” said Dr. Walid. “Can you?”
I thought of Fats Navarro, Billie Holiday, and Charlie Parker who, when he died, was mistaken by a coroner for a man twice his real age.
“You know,” I said, “I think you’ll find you can.”
- Chapter 1, “Body and Soul” (p. 10)
- “Cyrus was a musician?” I asked.
“He played the alto sax.”
“And he played jazz?”
Another brief smile. “Is there any other kind of music?”
- Chapter 1, “Body and Soul” (p. 12)
- Why would someone use magic to kill a jazz musician in the middle of his set? I mean, I have my problems with the New Thing and the rest of the atonal modernists but I wouldn’t kill someone for playing it–at least not if I wasn’t trapped in the same room.
- Chapter 1, “Body and Soul” (p. 19)
- “You shouldn’t make jokes about these things,” she said. “Science doesn’t have all the answers, you know.”
“It’s got all the best questions, though.”
- Chapter 2, “The Spice of Life” (p. 35)
- When you’re a musician free is a magic number.
- Chapter 3, “A Long Drink of the Blues” (p. 45)
- The police can live with looking corrupt, bullying, or tyrannical, but looking stupid is intolerable. It has a tendency to undermine public faith in the forces of Law and is deleterious to public order.
- Chapter 4, “One-Tenth of My Ashes” (p. 64)
- I rang her and left a message identifying myself and giving an impression of urgency without actually saying anything concrete. Never record anything you wouldn’t want turning up on YouTube is my motto.
- Chapter 4, “One-Tenth of My Ashes” (p. 75)
- Five hundred years ago the notoriously savvy Henry VIII discovered an elegant way to solve both his theological problems and his personal liquidity crisis—he dissolved the monasteries and nicked all their land. Since the principle of any rich person who wants to stay rich is, never give anything away unless you absolutely have to, the land has stayed with Crown ever since.
- Chapter 4, “One-Tenth of My Ashes” (p. 76)
- “There’s more to life than just London,” said Nightingale.
“People keep saying that,” I said. “But I’ve never actually seen any proof.”
- Chapter 5, “The Night Gate” (p. 86)
- “The world was different before the war,” he said. “We didn’t have this instantaneous access to information that your generation has. The world was a bigger, more mysterious place—we still dreamed of secret caves in the Mountains of the Moon, and tiger hunting in the Punjab.”
- Chapter 5, “The Night Gate” (pp. 87-88)
- Ghosts, I was thinking, memories—I wasn’t sure there was a difference.
- Chapter 5, “The Night Gate” (p. 97)
- The difference between stripping and burlesque, as far as I could tell, was class.
- Chapter 6, “The Empress of Pleasure” (p. 121)
- I’m an old-fashioned copper–I don’t believe in breaking the laws of thermodynamics.
- Chapter 7, “Almost Like Being in Love” (p. 141)
- Blackstone’s Police Operational Handbook recommends the ABC of serious investigation: Assume nothing, Believe nothing, and Check everything.
- Chapter 8, “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” (p. 152)
- “Do you feel guilty?”
“No,” I said. “I didn’t do it to them and I did my best to stop it. But I feel guilty that I don’t feel guilty, if that helps.”
- Chapter 8, “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” (p. 154)
- “The chicken in that is embalmed, dried and pressed very flat, and then sprinkled with extra chemicals,” she said.
“Too hungry to care,” I said.
- Chapter 9, “The Forcing House” (p. 180)
- “The old days,” said Smith. “Isn’t that what you’re asking about? Because I was a respectable businessman.”
“But Smithy,” said Stephanopoulis. “I don’t believe in respectable businessmen. I’ve been a copper for more than five minutes. And the constable here doesn’t think you’re respectable either, because it happens he is a card-carrying member of the Workers’ Revolutionary Party and so regards all forms of property as a crime against the proletariat.”
That one caught me by surprise and the best I could manage was “Power to the people.”
- Chapter 9, “The Forcing House” (p. 183)
- As property prices started rising, developers snatched up bomb sites and derelict buildings and erected the shapeless concrete lumps that have made the ’70s the shining beacon of architectural splendor that it is.
- Chapter 9, “The Forcing House” (p. 194)
- “Shouldn’t I know about these things?” I said.
“The list of things you need to know about, Peter, is extraordinarily long,” said Nightingale.
- Chapter 10, “Funland” (p. 207)
- First law of gossip—there’s no point knowing something if somebody else doesn’t know you know it.
- Chapter 11, “Those Foolish Things” (p. 239)
- Anything that can go wrong with armed men in the light can go twice as wrong in the dark.
- Chapter 12, “It Don’t Mean a Thing” (p. 265)
- Have you noticed that about journalists—all they really want to talk about is themselves.
- C hapter 13, “Autumn Leaves” (p. 273)
- It’s no fun looking down on people if you can’t let them know you’re above them.
- Chapter 13, “Autumn Leaves” (p. 273)
- There were screams and yells from the street below as people saw what was happening. There would be lots of phone-camera footage on the news that night from people with more media-savvy than brains.
- Chapter 13, “Autumn Leaves” (p. 275)
- It’s always better to tell a half-truth than a half-lie.
- Chapter 13, “Autumn Leaves” (p. 277)
- “If they were ugly, Peter, would you care half so much?” asked Nightingale. “There are some hideous things out there that can talk and reason, and I wonder if you would be quite so quick to rush to their defense.”
“Maybe not,” I said. “But that just makes me shallow, it doesn’t make me wrong.”
- Chapter 13, “Autumn Leaves” (p. 279)
Whispers Under Ground (2012)
- All page numbers are from the American mass market first edition, ISBN 978-0-345-52461-4, 1st printing
- Back in the summer I’d made the mistake of telling my mum what I did for a living. Not the police bit, which of course she already knew about, having been at my graduation from Hendon, but the stuff about me working for the branch of the Met that dealt with the supernatural. My mum translated this in her head to “witchfinder,” which was good because like most West Africans, she considered witchfinding a more respectable profession than policeman.
- Chapter 1, “Tufnell Park” (p. 1)
- Like young men from the dawn of time, I decided to choose the risk of death over certain humiliation.
- Chapter 1, “Tufnell Park” (p. 5)
- So just chalk it up to pixie dust or quantum entanglement, which was the same thing as pixie dust except with the word “quantum” in it.
- Chapter 1, “Tufnell Park” (p. 9)
- “The scope of your ignorance, Peter,” said Seawoll, “is truly frightening.”
- Chapter 2, “Baker Street” (p. 27)
- “Is that your professional opinion?”
“Which as usual,” said Seawoll, “is as about as useful as a chocolate teapot.”
- Chapter 2, “Baker Street” (p. 28)
- “He did some drugs at university,” I said. “Isn’t that what it’s for?”
- Chapter 9, “Shepherd’s Bush Market” (p. 98)
- Low sample size—one of the reasons why magic and science are hard to reconcile.
- Chapter 10, “Russell Square” (p. 106)
- “It’s one of those paradox thingies,” I said. “What happens when the unstoppable cook meets the unfillable stomach?”
- Chapter 10, “Russell Square” (p. 107)
- All diplomatic cars have distinctive plates that indicate status and nationality, for the ease and convenience of terrorists and potential kidnappers.
- Chapter 14, “Westbourne Park” (p. 148)
- I looked at Lesley—surely nobody could really be that stupid? She shrugged. Lesley has a much lower opinion of humanity than I do.
- Chapter 14, “Westbourne Park” (p. 153)
- You don’t actually know enough about me to insult me properly.
- Chapter 14, “Westbourne Park” (p. 156)
- Was it better to die in the illusion of sunshine and warmth or face death in a cold darkness of reality? Was it better to die in happy ignorance or terrified knowledge? The answer, if you’re a Londoner, is that it’s better not to die at all.
- Chapter 21, “Oxford Circus” (p. 224)
- A lot of people have died in the Underground, through accidents, stupidity, or suicide. All the one-unders who is dying wish had been to make other people late for work.
- Chapter 21, “Oxford Circus” (p. 226)
- “I want assurances,” said Zach.
“You can have my word,” I said.
“No disrespect, Peter,” he said, “but I don’t want a promise from the monkey, I want it from the organ grinder.”
- Chapter 24, “Sloane Square” (p. 250)
- “Fortunately,” said Nightingale, “seeing isn’t always believing.”
- Chapter 25, “Ladbroke Grove” (p. 261)
- It was a good plan, and like all plans since the dawn of time, this would fail to survive contact with real life.
- Chapter 25, “Ladbroke Grove” (p. 262)
- As Conan the Barbarian famously said, “That which does not kill us does not kill us.”
- Chapter 25, “Ladbroke Grove” (p. 262)
- Half-caste, I thought. I hadn’t heard that one in a while. Not since Mum fell out with Aunty Doris, who having grown up in Jamaica in the 1950s regarded political correctness as something that happened to other people.
- Chapter 25, “Ladbroke Grove” (p. 266)