Midnight Riot, Con Man, and Hero at Large

Two of my favorites this week are Ben Aaronovitch's novel Midnight Riot and Alan Tudyk's new video series Con Man. Midnight Riot is what Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden series wants to be and Con Man is either Alan Tudyk's love letter to science fiction fans or maybe a poison pen letter; I suppose it could be viewed either way. I also quite enjoyed an older contemporary romance by Janet Evanovich, who is best known for her Stephanie Plum bounty hunter series.

Midnight Riot
Midnight Riot takes place in London, in fact its name in the UK is the Rivers of London, and features Peter Grant, a mixed race probationary constable who's just getting ready to get his first real assignment. To his dismay he's told that he's basically going off to work in the paperwork department, facing a lifetime of drudgery and data entry.
But when he and his partner Leslie May are called to a strange murder everything takes a turn. He meets a witness to the murder but this witness is no ordinary witness. This witness is a ghost. When he goes back looking for the spirit to get more information from he's approached by an older gentleman who asks him what he's doing and he thinks the hell with it I'll just tell him the truth. And that's how he meets the man who becomes his new supervisor, Detective Inspector Nightingale and begins his career as an apprentice wizard/cop.
Overall Midnight Riot is lots of fun. The author is also a screenwriter so it's no surprise that the book has excellent visuals and the dialogue runs smoothly. The book is quite funny but it's also kind of heartbreaking. Partner Leslie May is bright, witty, and steadfast whereas Peter is a bit more ditsy, and easily distracted. While she is a steady officer with good detecting skills, he is better at picking up stray impressions and making nebulous connections.
Midnight Riot is a mystery which involves a series of peculiar murders. Told in the first-person, we really get inside Peter's head. While quite a bit of urban fantasy involves werewolves and vampires, which are fun and interesting in their own way, this one explores territory that is probably new to many readers, including deities having territorial disputes over London rivers. I started book two, Moon Over Soho but I'm not quite as enamored. I'll let you know in a future column what my overall impressions are.

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Con Man
Created, written, and directed by Alan Tudyk, Con Man is about an actor called Wray Nerely who starred in a beloved but ill fated science fiction show called Spectrum. Set 10 years after the cancellation of the show, Wray bitterly resents science fiction and by extension fandom, but he makes his living going from convention to Convention interacting with fans. He badly wants to leave Spectrum behind and work in more mainstream films but everything seems to conspire against him.
His boneheaded moves, trials and tribulations, and just plain bad luck result in very funny but cringe-inducing scenes. In this sense it's like HBO's Veep in that the characters get into so much trouble and make such fools of themselves it's almost painful to watch.
We get to see the negative side of being famous, or at least famous in certain circles. Wray is pestered for autographs while he's literally on the toilet, and any negativity towards others is immediately going to be online. He should be on his best behavior whenever he's in public, but of course that doesn't actually happen.
My older brother gave me this series for my birthday, with a strong recommend and he's right; it's excellent. I'm watching it with my middle son, and we're both really enjoying it. Of course both of us have been to quite a few science fiction conventions and I've been a panelist on several panels so we have experienced some of this stuff firsthand. (I was in the restroom once when a woman tried to give her manuscript to an agent, offering to slide it under the stall door.)
With an all star cast including Wil Wheaton, Felicia Day, Nathan Fillion, and a gazillion others, this series is a real treat. You can watch a trailer here.

Hero at Large
Hero at Large is Janet Evanovich's first published novel, which she says changed her life. She has re-released her older contemporary romances that ran before her Stephanie Plum books became so popular. Hero at Large is the story of Chris, a single mother who is a skate coach for figure skaters. She lives with her aunt Edna, who's extremely opinionated, and her little girl. While she's excellent with her students, she's not mechanically inclined and her car dies as she's on her way to work. Ken Callahan, hero, stops to help her and she inadvertently breaks one of his arms.
As a result he ends up moving in, renting the downstairs, which will help her make ends meet and give him a chance to mend. But she is horrified by her burgeoning feelings for him and is determined to not disrupt the calm life that she's built for herself and her family. Ken on the other hand is determined to become a permanent fixture in her life.
This is another fun story with lots of details about figure skating, which is nice as I haven't read a lot of books that are set in the figure skating world. I had some minor problems with the book which are partly because it's fairly dated at this point. They have a whirlwind courtship, falling in love in a very short time, too short for my tastes. Of course they've got problems that are coming down the pike because if it was just a story about people falling in love it would only be a couple pages long, but the speed of their relationship made me kind of nervous. This is this is not a story that would work very well today because this guy is a complete stranger and she doesn't do anything to research him. He wouldn't even be in her house for five minutes today before she was looking him up on Facebook or something. But this book was originally written in 1986 when hardly anybody was online. Anyway it's a fun read and a fast read. I think I read it in about an hour. So if you like romances give this one a shot. You can read an excerpt here. http://www.evanovich.com/books/hero-at-large/

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Bonus Treat:
This week's bonus treat comes from cartoonist Jim Benton. I think we all know or are this person. http://www.gocomics.com/jim-benton-cartoons/2016/04/11