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Crow Investigations Series - review

I have become very fond of a distinctly niche genre - urban fantasy crime fiction. Books by Paul Cornell (Shadow Police) and Ben Aaronovitch (Rivers of London) combine magic in a present day world with a police procedural to make a fascinating and fun read. Having exhausted their output so far, I was looking for something else on the same lines and came across Sarah Painter's four books (to date) in the Crow Investigations series, starting with The Night Raven.

Although not strictly police procedural (the main character, Lydia Crow is a private investigator rather than a cop), this London-set series combines crime and magic with a genuinely original and delightful scenario. There are four 'magical families' in London with special abilities who have used these abilities to further their families fortunes - sometimes legally, sometimes otherwise.

Lydia is part of the the somewhat dodgy Crow family, but has been brought up out of the family circle and has just moved back to London to be dropped back into things in a big way. There are some lovely details - for example her coin (read the book for an explanation) - and Lydia's unlikely assistant, whose role grows through the series.

I will certainly continue to read these books, but they aren't quite up to the level of the other two mentioned above. This is because Sarah Painter drags out the action - arguably there is really only enough material for two books here. Lydia is constantly refusing to pay any attention to information that is essential to carry the plot forward - hardly a great characteristic for a P.I. Nonetheless, there's a rich inventiveness here, and things do pick up speed a little by book four. So, a worth addition to the field.

The Night Raven and its sequels are available from Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.

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