Books: Lies Sleeping by Ben Aaronovitch

Mpepper/ July 4, 2020/ Reviews

It might be best (it usually is) to start at the beginning. Lies Sleeping is the seventh in the Peter Grant/Rivers of London series of books. I previously reviewed a number of the earlier books on my spooklights site, but I’ll give a small recap here, too.

Peter Grant is a police constable in modern-day London. But he has an unusual job: dealing with magical and supernatural crimes and criminals. The first book in the series is, depending on where you live, Midnight Riot or Rivers of London (same book, different titles). It’s a great book, and the second one, Moon Over Soho, is also very good. Somewhere in the middle of this series, at least thus far, it got a bit mushy and muddled. But I think that may be my perception based on having to wait a year between each new entry. If I went and re-read them now, I wonder whether I’d find them as much of a slog or as mildly confusing? I don’t really intend to do that, so it will be a question that remains unanswered.

Still and all, Lies Sleeping struck me as a return to form. By which I mean, I was engaged and able to follow everything with no problems. Given that I’d somehow missed that there were two more entries in the series (Lies Sleeping and False Value) and was therefore actually farther behind that ever, I would reason that this book was written more comprehensively than the last couple? But again, I don’t know that for sure. I did find it more fun and less work overall. Maybe that was due to my frame of mind, though. There are so many variables to consider in whether someone likes a book, movie, or other piece of art…

In this particular tale, Grant and his cohorts are on the trail of Martin Chorley, aka The Faceless Man. This has been the big villain for a while now, but finally they seem to be narrowing in on him and getting a sense of what he’s trying to accomplish. Motives are revealed, as it were. And it’s an interesting setup, with a bit of an abrupt conclusion, but that’s been par for the course in these books. I still enjoyed it.

There are a lot of characters to keep up with in this series, which may turn some readers off. A lot of rules of magic that are sometimes vague, though explanations for the vagaries of magical practice are written into the text (“hang a lampshade” as they say). Peter Grant’s snark and humor are what keep me coming back; he’s the everyman trying to keep up with what’s happing around him, and I think readers identify with that. Still, I’ve never found his relationship with Bev very compelling, and that’s escalated in this book and is set up to be brought forward in future books. It’s not annoying enough (yet) to stop me from reading them. But the more characters are added, and the way everyone seems to be smarter and better than Peter—pretty soon that’s going to become tiring and annoying rather than funny, and I don’t know whether I’ll be as interested in these books at that point. You can have an imperfect protagonist, but he needs to learn and get better at a rate that keeps the reader invested in him. Peter seems a little behind this curve. He’s the worst student in this “class” of people learning magic, so to speak, and it’s increasingly difficult to cheer him on and believe he’ll ever make the grade.

Peter’s “governor” Nightingale is very adept and interesting, on the other hand, and that worries me because we all know the mentor figure has to die eventually. I might not be able to stand that.

TL;DR: I liked the first two or three books in this series, felt a few in the middle were undercooked, but found this one enjoyable again. Taking a modest break to read some manga before queuing up False Value.

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