Sunday, December 16, 2018

Lies Sleeping (Rivers of London #7) by Ben Aaronovitch

The Faceless Man, Martin Chorley, is moving closer and closer to his mysterious but doubtlessly destructive final goal. But the Folly has gathered all its resources, all it connections to begin Operation Jennifer which will final stop him once and for all

And Peter Grant, detective constable and apprentice wizard, boyfriend to a river goddess is going to be in the centre of the front line

I like Peter a lot, as a character. There’s so many aspects to him which are so refreshing and fun to read. Perhaps most surprising of them is he’s a person. A real person with a life. He’s a police detective and a wizard but he also goes home to his mum for dinner and fending off her massively spicy Sierra Leonian cooking. He has a pint. He goes home to Beverley. In a genre where so many people, especially detectives, seem to just exist for the drama, he actually has a home life. He’s not sitting there declaring “I am Police! My Life Is Fighting The Crime!”

I also like that he’s a good man - and how he’s a good man. Peter isn’t naive. He knows there are times when being a bit of a bastard would be more effective and safer. He overtly thinks that there would be a better way to do things - but those would involving not caring for people, not following the rules and, ultimately, not being a good man. Peter isn’t a fool and is aware that he is sometimes actively making his life more difficult and dangerous -but these rules matter to him. But nor is he self-righteous, he doesn’t think he’s better than other people, he isn’t judgemental. He’s hopeful without being naive and he’s cynical without being bitter. He doesn’t expect the world to be better but he is determined to make it better. And oh my gods, can I say how much I love seeing a fictional police officer who cares about the rules? It seems to be a staple of fiction to have the police break the rules gleefully and we’re supposed to support it. I like to see a fictional police officer who actually cares about the law. I really like how Lesley stands as counterpoint to him - because again she isn‘t super demonised as all evil - but because maybe she just doesn’t have his same lines. And she maybe has a point? These rules and laws have been put in place for completely non-magical people and do they even apply, can they?

And he’s extremely funny and fun with a lot of very wry observations which were hilarious. I love Peter, I love his voice, I love how we get this incredible hard balance of being a good person without being naive or bitter is just hit perfectly. He’s wonderful.

He also fits the world - this wonderful setting in London, full of research and knowledge and pure love of the city - but that love is the same as Peter’s goodness. It’s love that is mixed with cynical knowledge of reality - whether it’s Lesley’s angry retort that London sucks all the wealth and attention from the rest of the country or Peter’s cynical knowledge of London Traffic, funding, neglected areas, some truly awful architecture and more - he sees ALL of it and loves it despite it.

The whole book, the whole series, has some truly excellent takes on police procedure and the city. It’s rueful, snarky, funny, real and manages to make a lot of very boring procedure seem funny. It’s nice to see all the paperwork, it’s nice to see them uploading leads, chasing leads down, attending dull dull meetings, doing risk assessments, checking procedure etc etc. It’s excellent and fun and sarcastic - and both does an excellent job of poking many things without necessarily saying they’re bad or wrong. A procedure can be irritating and mockable while still being important or necessary.

Top this off with the supernatural, the glorious romp of fae, arthurian legend, magic, dubious practitioners and a whole lot of fun woo-woo. And I really love how there is a lot of research in this - from the work of archaeologists, to what early London looked like and bringing that history together into a really complicated and fascinating plot involving the old enemy Punch. I also really like how it’s clear there are holes in their knowledge of the supernatural, a whole lot is fudged and Peter, who has a scientific mind, is fully aware of how arrogance, ignorance and prejudice has informed the scholarship of people who came behind.

The plot as I’ve touched on, is excellent with a great combination of careful pacing, frustrating, when the police work is, fascinating and fun.

I also really like how this book approaches mental health - after all everyone here is doing a really hard job in very high risk conditions literally facing the complete unknown. I liked how they explored that, yes, some of these characters couldn’t take it and needed help,. I liked how no-one judged him as weak or fragile and even felt their own failures for not recognising he needed help. I like how when discussing policies they realised this is an important thing they need to pay attention to, I like how mental health is high on everyone’s priority and concern and it’s openly advocated

The diversity continues to be excellent - Peter is Black and has always kept his race very much part of his character through this series, from awareness of racism to his close bond with his mother from Sierra Leone. The police officer he most closely works with is Sahra Guleed, a muslim woman who is learning an entirely different magical system. And she’s fun, her faith and race is not vanished but nor all consuming and she and Peter banter excellently and are really good together. Peter’s girlfriend is also Beverley Brook, a Black woman and river goddess and we have Abigail, new recruit for the Folly, a brilliant child and excellent researcher who is also Black. I also like how we see things through Peter’s eyes - because he has no racial default assumed: so he describes characters’ race (kind of like he’s recording their identify for police identification) including White characters and he excellently shows a lot of the diversity of London because of that. Which means we have a lot of minor POC around, including a French, Vietnamese woman who works with the City of London police (not the Met Police. And if you’re not English and don’t understand there’s a difference… yeah… it’s complicated).

We have a minor lesbian character - she has a high rank but isn’t necessarily present a great deal. Still, when she does appear she is another excellent character and I really wish there was more of her. Peter is also consciously aware of class and wealth and how this can affect things - and how Nightengale, the avatar of poshness, can effectively weaponise that status

I love this book, I love this series… and I leave with a little concern. Because this book has closed an immense plot arc and left Peter in a very new position. I want to know where it goes from here - and worry because it has reached a very natural ending