By Ben Aaronovitch

DAW Books


304pp/$26.00/November 2018

Lies Sleeping
Cover by Patrick Knowles

Reviewed by Steven H Silver

The seventh novel in Ben Aaronovitch's Rivers of London series is quite different than the earlier novels. Set in London, as most of the novels are, and following Peter Grant's attempts to arrest or stop the Faceless Man, previously revealed to be Martin Chorley, the novel feels, in some ways as a place-holder, even as it moves the overarching plot of the series along, perhaps because the episodic investigation into an attack on Richard Williams seems more a maguffin than an actual investigation.

While the chase to capture Chorley has often been in the background of Grant's adventures, a project he and Nightingale are working on while they are solving other crimes that come up, that changed with the activities in The Hanging Tree and in Lies Sleeping, Chorley takes center stage. Nightingale and Grant are now part of Operation Jennifer, which means that they have a full team of analysts to call upon and the Folly has been turned from a realtively quiet residence for Nightingale, Grant, and Molly into a full police operation with people coming and going. Instead of chasing up on his own leads, Peter can now turn them over to the analysts while he concerns himself with either more important investigations or wilding off on his own hunches.

Perhaps more than most of the novels in the River of London series, Lies Sleeping relies on knowledge of the previous books, not only because the contest of wills between the Folly and Chorley appears to be nearing an end, but because there are many references to events that happened, not only in the earlier novels, but also the novellas and comics that Aaronovich has published, further cementing the breadth of his canon. At the same time, Aaronovitch is introducing new elements to the series, such as Foxglove, a fae Peter makes an acquaintance with under difficult circumstances.

It feels as if Aaronovitch left some storylines incomplete, possibly because of an intention to follow up on them in future volumes. He hints at additional background for Foxglove which allows the reader to make suppositions about her. He has also raised some questions about recurring character David Carey, which he allows to hang. However, at the same time, characters are allowed to advance and grow when Peter isn't directly involved with them. Sahra Guleed, for instance, gains in responsibility, which Peter notes and accepts, but is also a bit surprised by. Lesley May also has changed in ways Peter was unaware, although not in ways he is particularly happy with.

From the beginning, Lies Sleeping gives the feeling that the chase for Martin Chorley, the Faceless Man, is coming to a head, however even as the action moves inexorably in that direction, Aaronovitch has built Chorley up to be a powerful and clever trickster, which means that any conclusion he may offer in the case is to be questioned. Furthermore, May's partnership with Chorley, who is the second Faceless Man Grant and Nightingale must deal with, opens the possibility that she will take over any vacuum that could possibly be caused should Chorley be removed from the picture. It is clear that if Peter is not an unreliable narrator in these novels, he is, at least, an underinformed narrator, which must be taken into account with each novel.

While Lies Sleeping may not stand on its own, it does feel like a synthesis of all the novels that came before, providing the reader with reminders of what has happened and giving some clues (potentially red herrings) about what is going to happen. The novel has a strong sense of movement towards a goal, even in the portion where little seems to be happening. Aaronovich even sidelines Peter for a portion of the novel, but maintains the forward motion with the large (and often anonymous) support cast which has taken over the Folly to try to catch Chorley.

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