The seventh book of the bestselling Rivers of London series returns to the adventures of Peter Grant, detective and apprentice wizard, as he solves magical crimes in the city of London.
The Faceless Man, wanted for multiple counts of murder, fraud, and crimes against humanity, has been unmasked and is on the run. Peter Grant, Detective Constable and apprentice wizard, now plays a key role in an unprecedented joint operation to bring him to justice.
But even as the unwieldy might of the Metropolitan Police bears down on its foe, Peter uncovers clues that the Faceless Man, far from being finished, is executing the final stages of a long term plan. A plan that has its roots in London's two thousand bloody years of history, and could literally bring the city to its knees.
To save his beloved city Peter's going to need help from his former best friend and colleagueLesley Maywho brutally betrayed him and everything he thought she believed in. And, far worse, he might even have to come to terms with the malevolent supernatural killer and agent of chaos known as Mr Punch....
About the Author
Ben Aaronovitch was born in London in 1964 and had the kind of dull routine childhood that drives a man either to drink or to science fiction. He is a screenwriter, with early notable success on BBC's legendary Doctor Who, for which he wrote some episodes now widely regarded as classics, and which even he is quite fond of. After a decade of such work, he decided it was time to show the world what he could really do, and embarked on his first serious original novel. The result is Midnight Riot, the debut adventure of Peter Grant.
Read an Excerpt
His name was Richard Williams and he worked in public relations. Despite living in a nice Edwardian semi in Chiswick, his family were originally from Fulwood, Sheffield and had enough readies to send him to Birkdale School as a day boy. Thus allowing him to get both an expensive education and a home cooked meal. He'd moved to London after graduating with a creditable first from Magdalen College Oxford. There he had met his first wife while working for a major advertising agency. Now with a second, younger, wife and a pair of daughters on the cusp of primary school he was, if I was any judge, getting ready to move out to the Thames Valley or even further west to ensure that they went to schools that were a little less "colorful" than the ones in Chiswick. I could guess this because I knew just about everything there was to know about Richard Williams, from his school records to the last thing he bought online with his credit card. No doubt he would be horrified to hear that he'd fallen victim to the ubiquitous surveillance state, and even more horrified to learn that two police officers, me and DS "count the stripes" Guleed, were sitting across from his house in an unmarked, but mercifully not silver, Hyundai and keeping his house under observation.
Me and Guleed were less horrified, and more bored out of our tiny little minds.
We were there because while at Oxford Richard Williams had joined a dining club called the Little Crocodiles. Nothing unusual about that; plenty of posh students and their aspirational middle-class groupies joined dining clubs, if only for the chance to get pissed and boisterous without the fear of turning up on a cheap Channel 5 documentary about the moral decline of the English working class.
Or as my dad always says: it only becomes a social problem when the working man joins in.
What made the Little Crocodiles different was their founder Professor Geoffrey Wheatcroft, DD, DPhil, FSW, and fully qualified wizard. The FSW is the giveaway. It stands for Fellow of the Society of the Wise, otherwise known as The Folly-the official home of British wizardry since 1775. And if this is coming as a shock you might want to consider doing some background reading before you continue.
Geoffrey Wheatcroft thought it would be a laugh to teach some of the Little Crocodiles how to do magic-we don't know how many. A small percentage of them got really good at it, but we don't know how many of these there are, either.
What we do know is that at least two of them decided to use their magical skills to do some serious crimes. Including a couple that might just qualify as crimes against humanity-and I'm not joking about that.
Geoffrey Wheatcroft died before all this came to light, and so managed to avoid the consequences for his actions, although I know my governor occasionally fantasizes about digging up his corpse and setting fire to it. Also conveniently dead was Albert Woodville-Gentle, who we used to call Faceless Man number I. But, before he went, he helped train up Martin Chorley, who we called Faceless Man II. Trust me-it made sense at the time.
We know who Martin Chorley is, and we know what he's done. But we don't know where he is. Or what he's planning. And that's what's keeping us all awake at night.
The man was clever, I'll say that. He didn't count on getting busted, but he definitely had contingency plans and resources squirreled away just in case.
We really only had two viable lines of inquiry to find Martin Chorley. One was the fact that we know he recruited former Little Crocodiles to work for him, and the other was that there were more of those that we hadn't identified. So some bright spark came up with the idea of the "poke" strategy.
We got our analysts to locate likely candidates among the Little Crocodiles, then we put them under close surveillance and then we went and practiced some light intimidation-the "poke"-to spook them. That done, we sat back and waited to see if they reacted. Hopefully they might call a number or send an e-mail or a text to an unusual contact. Even more hopefully, they might run out of their house, jump in their car and lead us somewhere tasty.
That's why me and Guleed were in the Hyundai-so we could follow Williams if he ran for it.
"This is all your fault," said Guleed.
"It's bound to work sooner or later," I said.
Richard Williams was our third "poke" and the consensus was that we'd only get another two or three attempts before Martin Chorley twigged what we were doing, or someone tried to sue us for harassment.
"There they go," said Guleed.
I looked over and saw a battered green Vauxhall Corsa pull up outside the target house.
The house had probably cost a couple of million quid, with its two stories plus loft conversion, red brick, and detailing on the porch roof that hinted at Arts and Crafts without actually making it over the finishing line. It was at least mercifully free of pebble-dash and fake half-timbering. They'd retained the original sash windows but installed the venetian blinds that have replaced net curtains as the genteel response to sharing your neighborhood with other human beings. The blinds were currently open. But to avoid being bleeding obvious we were parked ten meters up the street, so the angle was too poor for us to see inside.
The burner phone I was holding pinged and a sideways smiley face appeared.
"Stand by," I said.
We were avoiding using our police issue Airwaves as much as possible, and not just because of the danger of them being wrecked if something magical happened. The smiley face had gone out to the team covering the next road over in case somebody made a break out of the back.
Nightingale and DC David Carey got out of the Corsa and started up the path to the front door.
"Here we go," said Guleed, and stifled a yawn.
We'd been swapping roles since we started the operation. Nightingale and Carey had been in the observation car for the last poke-in Chipping Norton. We were calling that one "the Aga saga" because our target hadn't shut up about his kitchen, which, as far as I could tell, had been designed by the same people who'd decorated Bag-End.
"Door's open," said Guleed, and I made a note of the time in the log.
Normally the police like to turn up nice and early, preferably around 6 a.m., because not only are people liable to be actually at home but that early in the morning they're rarely playing with a full deck. Today we were going in Sunday lunchtime because we weren't looking for shock and awe but aiming for sinister and creepy instead. Nightingale is remarkably good at that-I think it's the accent.
Richard Williams had once had a job with a company called Slick Pictures, who'd done a lot of work for a land development company that was, via a series of shell companies, wholly owned by a firm called County Gard. Which just happened to be the remote instrument by which Martin Chorley ran some of his criminal enterprises.
It was thin, but we were desperate and, at the very least, it might keep the pressure on.
Guleed fussed with her hijab, an unusually plain one for her, police issue and designed to tear away if somebody grabbed it. We were both wearing the plain clothes version of the Metvest under our jackets-just in case.
I watched a cat leap out of the next door garden and streak away down the road. Something about its frantic pace made me uneasy and I was just about to mention it to Guleed when the burner pinged again and flashed up "aa." We'd worked out a series of codes as part of our operational planning. The character was irrelevant-the code lay in the number of them you sent. Three characters meant stand by, one meant charge in screaming, and two meant we were to take up our prearranged "intervention" positions.
"That makes a change," she said.
We climbed out into the muggy warmth of a suburban Sunday lunchtime and headed for the house. The plan was to loiter as unobtrusively as possible outside the gate and await further instructions. But we were still eight meters short of the house when it all went pear-shaped.
The first I knew of it was a burst of vestigia from the house, as heavy as a mallet and as sharp and as controlled as the point of a needle-Nightingale's signare. If it was that intense, then he must have really let rip. And the last time he did that we'd needed a JCB to sweep up the remains.
I started running and got to the gate in time to see a fountain of slates erupt over the gable roof. As the slates tumbled and cracked down the front of the house, I saw a figure in pink and blue twist and squirm onto the ridge of the roof. It was a woman, slender, black haired, pale skinned and balanced perfectly on the guttering as if auditioning for the next Spider-Man movie.
She swung around to look down at me, head tilted to one side. Even from that distance I could see a wash of crimson around her mouth and chin, and running down the chest of her blue Adidas sweatshirt. I didn't think it was her blood.
She was wearing pink tracksuit bottoms and her feet were bare.
I recognized her from the briefing as the Williams' family nanny and also, from the way her lips were pulled back to bare her teeth, from a fight I'd once had years ago in the Trocadero Center.
Oh shit, I thought. Haven't I met your sister?
Having seen us, I assumed she was going to scarper over the roof and down into the back garden. So it was a bit of a shock when she launched herself straight at me. Now, me and Guleed are bona fide detectives with the PIP2 qualifications to prove it, so we're not really supposed to be fighting anyone. That's what we have the TSG for.
Still, our careers being what they are at the moment, we'd taken some time with Nightingale, Carey and a couple of other members of the team, discussing what to do in various scenarios. And the principal lesson was-don't close, don't grapple, don't get clever. And don't hesitate.
I went right and Guleed went left.
The nanny landed like a cat on the pavement in what I thought was clear defiance of the laws of physics. I don't care how supple you are, landing like that from three stories up should have driven her shin bones through her knees.
Once I'd put a nice new Nissan Micra between her and me, I conjured up an impello and whacked it at her knees. Guleed had gone over next door's garden wall and had her baton out. I watched her tense to jump forward as the nanny went down on her face.
And then rolled over, shaking off the blow to spring onto the bonnet of the Micra, and got a second impello in the face for her trouble. Because I don't hesitate with my follow-ups these days. This one knocked her off the bonnet and she landed on her back, her face contorted into a silent snarl of rage.
We weren't going to get a better opportunity than that, so me and Guleed threw ourselves on top of her. I went for the legs, Guleed for the arms. She kicked me as I came forward, her bare foot smashing into my shoulder and knocking me sideways. I saw another dirty heel coming at my face and I twisted enough to take it on the shoulder again. The first kick had been numbing, but the second was agonizing. Despite the pain I tried to wrap my arms around her legs and use my body mass to pin her down. But it was like wrestling with a forklift truck. I swear she lifted my whole body weight and threw me over and onto my back.
I didn't wait to get comfy. I rolled clear-straight into the gutter-and scrambled to my feet. The nanny was up, too, and facing off against Guleed, who'd kept a grip on her right arm. Even as I lurched back into the fight the nanny struck at Guleed's face with her free left hand. But Guleed pulled her head back and in one fluid motion, pivoted around and swung her baton. It made a peculiar noise-like tearing silk-and slammed across the nanny's back. The woman arched in pain and I watched as Guleed, still holding her arm, ran up the side of the Nissan Micra in a way that didn't actually look physically possible and used her whole body weight to bear the nanny face down on to the pavement.
I decided that this was my cue and jumped forward to seize the nanny's ankles. Before she could react I threw my weight backward so that her legs were fully extended. Deprived of leverage even the strongest person can't throw someone off their legs by main strength, and with Guleed on her back we almost had her. We only had to hold her until backup arrived, but we didn't even have our cuffs out when she rippled like a snake. Guleed tried to hang on, but she was knocked flying into me. By the time we were untangled and on our feet the nanny was away.
"Where the fuck is Nightingale?" I asked.
Saving Richard Williams from bleeding out, as it transpired.
"She tried to bite his throat right out," Carey told me later.
I was ready to be disappointed by this book, after all the previous 6 have been excellent and the author is bound to crash and burn sooner or later and drag things on for one or two books longer than he really should. Fortunately, for me, this seventh outing of Peter Grant and all things Folly lived up to the previous 6 books. It has everything I have come to expect from this series - sarcastic narration from PC Grant, whoops Detective Grant as he is now; a plethora of strange peoples popping up out of the demi-monde; a little whiff of Nightingale; genuine peril from the Faceless Man II and the mystery of Lesley May. Throw in a good dollop of the early history of London and it all cracks along at a cracking pace. Although I didn't race through this book as fast as I have the previous offerings that was down to other time commitments and I hated leaving this wonderfully realised fantasy world to deal with real life. Even better I love how the reach of the Folly is expanding with new people being brought in as adjuncts to their Metropolitan Police sanctioned activities. Either things are getting weirder in London (entirely plausible as Peter seems to rattle everyone's calm albeit accidentally) or the powers that be are just starting to realise how odd everything really is. The cast of core characters is expanding but this is at the loss of spending much time with Nightingale and I am beginning to miss him. Actually, the one big difference between this and the previous books is that it is much more action led and we don't get too much downtime with Peter. Yes, the sarcastic asides are still there and the voice is as strong as ever but some of the personal touch feels a little lost. Maybe it is time to get Peter back out of the city and exploring the wider British Isles (Foxglove Summer was easily the best of the series thus far). That said, the progression of the storyline started in Rivers Of London is good and feels organic rather than forced and, even better, there is still an openness to the ending that leaves us as bewildered as Peter as to where exactly things stand when the ancient dust settles. Still a cracking good read and I am looking forward to Book 8.
I love Aaronovitch, his characters, his city, and his world. Can’t wait for more.
Great story and characters
In this latest installment of the English police urban fantasy mystery series our hero Peter Grant is hot on the trail of his former colleague Lesley May and her co-conspirator Faceless Man II aka MArtin Chorley. Dogged police work has led Peter and the rest of the police force in on the so-called Falcon-type incidents to follow up on all former members of the Oxford University Little Crocodiles society in the hope that one of the members might lead them to Martin Chorley. The book opens as Peter and Guleed are sitting outside the home of the latest Little Crocodile when all hell breaks out and one of the tall, thin high fae which Peter calls the Pale Ladies leaps out of the house after trying to kill the homeowner. With a trail that leads all around the City of London (not to be confused with London, which is a much larger area) centered on St Paul's Cathedral and West Smithfield Peter investigates a series of random clues involving King Arthur, Excalibur, the origins of Punch and more information on the mysterious Molly this book is just as clever, funny and convoluted as the previous books. Sadly there isn't nearly enough of Peter's mother but otherwise this is just as sublime (and confusing) as ever.
It's a challenge to rate an installment in the Rivers of London series because I love them all so much. Lies Sleeping is no exception, It definitely does feel like a potential ending to the series, but expanded the world and left enough unresolved that I would not be surprised if a new series in the same universe spins out from here. If you're a fan, I don't want to spoil this for you and if you haven't read any of the previous books, I REALLY don't want to spoil it. So, here's the gist. Peter is finally a detective constable, but Martin Chorley is still on the run. As Peter, Nightingale, Guleed, and Seawoll have been tracking suspected Little Crocodiles who may be working with or for Chorley. As they uncover Chorley's latest plot, more is revealed about several characters, including Molly, the Rivers, and Mr. Punch. Especially Mr. Punch. I've found I quite like crime novels, particularly when I connect to the characters. The supernatural elements of the Rivers of London are interesting, but it's the characters I love. Pretty much everybody's back this time. I wouldn't have minded less time on Lesley May, to be honest, but that would have a been challenging as she's still Chorley's partner in crime. Still, we get a bunch of character development and get to a resolution of the Faceless Man storyline (I think). This is a series I love reading, but particularly recommend the audiobooks. Even after getting my hands on the galley, I've been checking Audible almost daily, hoping to see Lies Sleeping available for pre-order. Finally, today it was! While I don't re-read most books, I've found myself re-listening to the audio versions of this series. I think that might be 51% because of the reader, Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, and 49% because I love the stories and characters. So I'll be listening to this again on November 20 and recommend you do the same. Note: I received a free ebook ARC from Berkely Publishing Group via NetGalley. This is my honest review.
Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Another strong installment in the Rivers of London series. The battles with the dark side are becoming more and more frequent, now that we know the Faceless Man and see more of his plans. But this one takes some even twistier twists and turnier turns and ends up in a place I didn't really expect. I had grown tired of this series after book 4, and took a VERY long break. In fact, I hadn't entirely planned on ever picking it back up again. Berkley offered me an ARC of this book in their newsletter, which I one-clicked before I thought... and I'm glad I made that impulsive decision. It made me pick up books five and six (both of which were great installments and fixed some of the issues I had with book four that made me set the series down) to get to this one and be caught up. It's not and never will be my favorite series, but I can now say again that I do very much enjoy it. I'll definitely pick up the next one to see what's happening in the world of Peter Grant and the Folly.