Lies Sleeping by Ben Aaronovitch
Peter Grant, our favourite semi-competent detective cum wizard-in-training, returns in Lies Sleeping (2018), the seventh book in Ben Aaronovitch’s RIVERS OF LONDON series. The Faceless Man has been unmasked and is on the run, and it is now up to Peter and the inimitable Detective Chief Inspector Nightingale (slash last officially sanctioned English Melvin the Wizard) to apprehend him.
(Fair warning: some spoilers for preceding books will follow.)
London is once more under threat and there can only be one man behind it. Readers will remember that the Faceless Man was finally unmasked as Martin Chorley, who, in true Vader-style, managed to turn Peter’s former colleague Lesley May to the dark side. Peter (now a Detective Constable), Guleed (his also-magically-indoctrinated colleague at the London Metropolitan Police), and mentor Nightingale are sure that The Faceless Man is plotting the ultimate evil, only they’re not exactly sure what.
Thus ensue various hijinks, near-misses and thwarted attempts to track down Lesley and the Faceless Man. Lies Sleeping is much more steeped in history than any of the previous books in the series and one of its pivotal questions is whether King Arthur and the sword Excalibur really existed. Explored through Peter’s characteristic narrative voice, the book is far from a history lesson: Peter’s musings on the myth and its truth are amongst the most hilarious passages in the book.
It is, of course, Peter’s narrative voice that readers will keep returning to the series for, and it is once more on finest form in this latest addition. It helps that Peter spends much more time working independently — he has, after all, worked his way up the police hierarchy and has become a (fractionally) more skilled magical practitioner. This does mean that Nightingale once more lurks on the sidelines of the novel (as he has arguably done for the whole of the series). If readers were hoping they would finally get a little more insight into the wizard, they will, unfortunately, be disappointed once again.
The same can be said of Molly, the Folly’s resident housekeeper and… well, that hasn’t been cleared up either. Peter is still not really sure what Molly is, although she is still lurking in the wings. Interestingly, Peter does come into contact with a magical creature that greatly resembles the Folly’s housekeeper, though Aaronovitch holds off giving any real answers once again.
The plot of Lies Sleeping is, at times, a little ropey. The Faceless Man’s evil master plan never truly comes to light, even when it is given an apparently big reveal at the end. Lesley May flits in and out of the story, but her motivations remain unclear. Yet readers will be prepared to deem all this irrelevant just to spend time with Peter and his dalliances with ‘weird bollocks’. He is as brilliant and joyous to read as ever. As well as all the usual laughs, there is a poignancy to Peter in this book as the impact of all the near misses of the series is taking its toll. Lies Sleeping is arguably the best addition to the series so far, and well worth committing to that first book, Rivers of London (published in the US as Midnight Riot), for.
In 2018’s Lies Sleeping, the seventh RIVERS OF LONDON novel (not including The October Man and other novellas) the Faceless Man’s plan is finally revealed, as is the true nature of Mr. Punch. Since I’m reviewing the seventh book, so there may be some spoilers for earlier books in the series.
Peter Grant is back in London with his new partner Sahra Guleed. They are staking out the home of a known associate of Martin Chorley, the rogue magical practitioner who is called the Faceless Man, while Nightingale approaches the house. The witness is attacked by his “killer nanny,” who manages to elude both Nightingale and Peter. Later, Peter finds a fragment of a screenplay in the house. The screenplay takes place during the post-Roman times and reeks of the Arthurian myth. And, as they search the known associate’s background, they find out that he commissioned the forging of an immense bell, one that hums with magic. In short order, Peter uncovers animal sacrifice near Paternoster Street, gathers rumors of a hidden Roman amphitheater, and spars with Lesley May, his former partner, who is now helping the Faceless Man.
While the story does slow down for another festival held by the various rivers, overall Lies Sleeping is fast-paced. Bit by bit Peter uncovers Chorley’s plan, which is audacious indeed. Along the way, Peter sacrifices a thing of great value to get a favor from Lady Ty, and once again risks his life to absorb information from an ancient source. These scenes are gripping. Aaronovitch weaves together a mythic sword, a cheesy screenplay, a magical bell and a hostage from the realm of the fae to create a suspenseful story that changes the direction of this series by the end.
At the end of the book we finally find out Lesley’s motivation for changing sides, and it’s hard not to agree with her motivations, even if we disagree with her choices.
And at the very end of the book there is yet another tidbit of information that will change Peter’s life in every way.
Lies Sleeping accomplishes everything it sets out to do, with occasional moments of strange beauty, as when Nightingale and Peter observe Molly and Foxglove dancing in the moonlit great hall of the Folly. Lesley has evolved into a powerful adversary and while this book does not specifically mention it, readers will remember that she gave Peter a timeline; in about a year, big changes will start. That timeline will have personal meaning for our protagonist.
You must at least read Rivers of London (published as Midnight Riot in the USA) before reading this book, and ideally you should read the whole series. Lies Sleeping delivers everything I’ve come to expect from this series.
It looks like File 770 picked up this review.