False Value is the eighth novel in the ‘Rivers of London’ series by Ben Aaronovitch. The others being: Lies Sleeping, The Hanging TreeFoxglove SummerBroken HomesWhispers Under GroundMoon Over Soho and Rivers of London.

These books follow the adventures of Peter Grant, a member of the London Metropolitan Police, who also happens to be a practicing wizard and part of the Police’s Special Assessment Unit a.ka. Falcon squad – imagine if Harry Potter got a job with the police.

The ‘Rivers of London’ series has a unique blend of genres; supernatural fantasy, crime, and procedural detective fiction. Peter Grant, is a relatable and engaging, although perhaps not wholly believable (due to his encyclopaedic knowledge), character who sees see a hidden side to London and its history that is not visible to most people, and his humorous narration and witty banter is a lot of fun. Aaronovitch has created a world where magic and science coexist, and the intricacies of the magical system are explored in detail, but not to a point where it becomes tedious.

The cases that Peter and his colleagues investigate are always full of surprises and twists, and the larger overarching storylines keep readers invested in the series. False Value is no exception and in fact, due to the demise of Grant’s nemesis Martin Chorley in Lies Sleeping, it has room to flex and expand the bounds of the storytelling.  

False Value re-joins the ongoing story 5 months after the events of the previous novel. So, we don’t get to learn much about the direct consequences of Chorley being killed and Lesley May’s escape from justice. Instead, we see Peter as a retired copper, working in the private sector; at Serious Cybernetics Corporation a tech company run by Terrence Skinner, an Elon Musk type. It took me a while to realise that Grant had no left Falcon and was actually undercover. I’m not sure if this was a neat trick by Aaronovitch, or whether I just wasn’t paying attention to the story.

Grant is hired by SCC to investigate a security breach that occurred during the development of their latest project, a revolutionary new computer system called the Virtual Interactive Kinetic Intelligence Interface (VIKI). VIKI appears to be a sentient AI who can communicate with Turing Test passing qualities. All is not what it seems though, and as you’d expect as Grant delves deeper into the case, he discovers that the breach may be connected to a larger conspiracy involving the company and Skinner its enigmatic founder.

False Value as usual contains a cast of supporting characters, most notably in this story is Sahra Guleed a fellow practitioner of magic and Grant’s colleague in the Falcon squad, and Beverley Brook, Grant’s girlfriend. Guleed helps Grant in the investigation and provides a level-headed counterpoint to his reckless act-first-think-later nature. Brook is a supernatural being, a river goddess, specifically the personification of the River Beverley in South London. Brook and Grant’s relationship is an important part of the series, with their often funny interactions providing a balance to the crime story.

False Value has a fairly predictable storyline but I really enjoyed it and loved how Aaronovitch combined high-end IT with archaic magical practices. The grand finale is suitably impressive and something that wouldn’t seem out of place in an episode of Doctor Who or a Marvel show. And I think what appeals to me most is that all the action in this series of books generally happens in such urbane settings, in this case the final ‘boss fight’ happens in a typically nondescript suburban commercial park.