We are thrilled to share with you an exclusive extract from Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London novella, The October Man. The October Man will be available in hardback, ebook and audio download novella on the 13th June 2019. In our exclusive extract join Tobias Winter, Peter Grant’s German counterpart, for a brand-new mystery.
If you thought magic was confined to one country . . . think again.
Trier is famous for wine, Romans and for being Germany’s oldest city. So when a man is found dead with, his body impossibly covered in a fungal rot, the local authorities know they are out of their depth.
Fortunately this is Germany, where there are procedures for everything.
Enter Investigator Tobias Winter, whose aim is to get in, deal with the problem, and get out with the minimum of fuss, personal danger and paperwork. With the help of frighteningly enthusiastic local cop, Vanessa Sommer, he’s quick to link the first victim to a group of ordinary middle aged men – and to realise they may have accidentally reawakened a bloody conflict from a previous century. But the rot is still spreading, literally and with the suspect list extending to people born before Frederick the Great solving the case may mean unearthing the city’s secret magical history.
. . . so long as that history doesn’t kill them first.
In late September, as the nights close in, a strange madness possesses my father. Much to the outrage of our neighbours, he builds a bonfire in the back garden and invites friends, colleagues and, yes, even the neighbours in for beer and baked potatoes. Despite being certain that lighting a bonfire in Gartenstadt is, if not illegal, certainly inconsiderate, the neighbours never complain. This may be because my father is the city’s Polizeipräsident but it’s also because he cooks a mean steak and is generous with the beer. Spiritually my father is a big, jolly, red-faced man who grew up on a farm in Lower Saxony and fondly remembers the comely potato queens of his youth. In reality, my father is a slender narrow-shouldered man from Ludwigshafen whose attempts to grow a moustache fizzled out in the mid-1970s.
‘Uncle’ Stefan, who came up the ranks just behind my father and has been his right-hand man and confidant for thirty years once told me that he is the most remarkable unremarkable man who ever lived. My mother says that she married my father because he was the most grown-up man she’d ever met, and if once a year he wanted to turn our back garden into a beer garden that was fine with her.
I’ve always enjoyed our annual potato fire, especially now I’m old enough to have a beer. Also these days, because I’m older, and police, I’m allowed to sit with the grown-ups and tell war stories. Not that I’ve got any. Or, at least, none that I’m allowed to tell outside of the Abteilung KDA. Stefan tells the best stories – like the one about the armadillo and the Dutchman. Or the time he had to arrest a nun for disorderly conduct.
And the time he found two decomposing bodies in a cupboard – a young boy and a girl.
‘Police work,’ said Stefan, ‘is ninety per cent paperwork, nine per cent bullshit and one per cent horror.’ He gazed at me over his beer. He had a blunt face with small grey eyes that could shift from humour to intimidation with frightening speed. Must have been very handy in an interview room back when he was still getting his hands dirty.
I must have looked slightly impressed, because my father got all cautionary.
‘Policing is a noble profession, Tobi,’ he said. ‘But it’s still just a job, and you’re supposed come home at the end of the shift to the important stuff.’
‘Like what?’ I asked.
‘Family,’ said Papa. ‘Friends. The house, the hearth – the dog.’
‘He just wants to know when you’re going to get married,’ said Stefan. ‘He’s worried you’ll meet the wrong case before you meet the right girl.’
Papa snorted but I could tell he was glad Stefan had said it.
‘You’re worried I’m going to get killed?’ I asked.
Papa shook his head.
‘“The wrong case” isn’t about danger. You only have to spend a couple of nights with Traffic to know that anybody can die suddenly,’ said Stefan, proving once again that he was the joyful heart of any social event.
‘True,’ said my father into his beer.
‘So what is “the wrong case”,’ I asked.
‘The one where you go over the line,’ said Stefan. ‘Where the job becomes an obsession and the next thing you know it’s hello bottle and goodbye family.’
Since Stefan had three grandchildren already and six gigs of pictures on his phone that he’d show at the slightest excuse, you had to assume that either he’d never had “the wrong case”, or he’d got over it.
‘I’ll have you know that I don’t take my job at all seriously,’ I said, which was a sign that I’d definitely had too many beers.