If you are a fan of urban fantasy and police procedurals and haven’t yet become involved with Ben Aaronovitch’s DC Peter Grant series, you are doing yourself a grave disservice. Today I have the sixth book in the series for you courtesy of Hachette Australia (although I have just found out that a graphic novella set in between books four and five has been released….and NOBODY told me! **NB: I’ve also just noticed that there is another short story set in between books one and two that was published in 2012 that I didn’t know about**) but if you think this series is something that might interest you, you really need to start at the beginning. For everyone else, here’s the blurb from Goodreads:
The Hanging Tree was the Tyburn gallows which stood where Marble Arch stands today. Oxford Street was the last trip of the condemned. Some things don’t change. The place has a bloody and haunted legacy and now blood has returned to the empty Mayfair mansions of the world’s super-rich. And blood mixed with magic is a job for Peter Grant.
Peter Grant is back as are Nightingale et al. at the Folly and the various river gods, ghosts and spirits who attach themselves to England’s last wizard and the Met’s reluctant investigator of all things supernatural.
It is no secret that I am a great fan of the first three books in this series, found the fourth quite lacking save for the epic and unexpected twist literally in the last few pages, and was bored rigid and greatly disappointed by the fifth. Happily, The Hanging Tree is a return to form for this series with a multi-layered mystery and a cast of mostly familiar characters, with the Thames family featuring chiefly amongst them. So, after returning to London, Peter becomes involved in a case featuring a number of young people and an unexplained death in one of London’s most prestigious apartment blocks. While on the surface, the case looks like it doesn’t require much Falcon involvement, once the surface is scratched it becomes clear that this case could be intricately linked with the identity of the Faceless Man.
Cue an inadvertent admission to manslaughter by the daughter of a river Goddess and some shifty looking Americans poking their noses in to Falcon’s investigation and things start to get tangled up pretty quickly. One thing I did find tricky about this book was that given that the previous book took place outside of London, and that I hadn’t read a London-based DC Grant story since 2013, I found it a little tricky remembering who was who from previous books. There are a number of wizards and demi-monde folk who reappear in this novel and a little ledger in the front with the names of all the Little Crocodiles and various hangers-on and where they fit in to the story would be incredibly handy for feeble-memoried readers like myself.
I very much liked the developing professional partnership between Peter and Guleed here, and was happy to see Stephanopolous making a contribution, as this was where much of the humorous banter came from in this particular story. Lesley May makes a much more significant appearance in this one too, which I am pleased to see remedied as her lack of involvement in Foxglove Summer was one of my main complaints about that book. The relationship between Peter and Beverley Brook also takes a backseat in this story, which was quite a relief after being bombarded with it in book five. There are a pair of new practitioning ladies introduced in this book, with some new, never-before-seen (by Peter, at least) powers that shake things up a bit and provide some interesting implications for how these may impact on the Folly in the future. Peter has mastered a couple of new (and quite amusing) forma since the last book, as well as having developed some helpful new magic-proofed gadgets and these added a bit of variety to the spells we have come to know and love.
The big plot point in this novel is the fact that Peter and Nightingale catch up with and uncover the identity of the Faceless Man – but I’m not telling you any more than that. The ending leaves things up in the air once again, with all sorts of options left open for what might happen next. All in all, I was pleased with this offering and although I will soon need a wall-sized reference chart to plot who is who and who is related to who and by what means to refer to while reading, I think I’m well and truly invested in this series for better or worse.
Until next time,