Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Date read: July 21 to 24, 2017
At the end of my write-up for The Hanging Tree, I said something along the line of wanting a break from the faceless man arc and more adventures of Peter doing some magical policing around London. Lo and behold, my request was granted in the form of this novella, or so I like to think. In truth, Ben Aaronovitch must have had this novella planned long before The Hanging Tree finished downloading in my inbox. The announcement just took me by surprise and the brief summary was basically what I asked for, so naturally I thought it was for me. Naturally.
This book was basically a solid 4-star most of the way through. And then that twist at the end happened that turned the investigation. 5 stars, easily, in the end.
Many spoilers scattered below, so that I don’t forget them.
Sargent Kumar (from Whispers Underground) called Peter and Nightingale in to help investigate what appeared at first to be a ghost infestation in a subway tunnel. Multiple people were reporting brief sightings in which figures clearly not of this world tried to harass or accost them, and what’s weird was it wasn’t the same ghost, but it appeared to be a different ghost each time. What’s weirder still were these people not being able to recall much of the incidents after reporting them; some even forgot they had spoken to the police at all, and the ones who did remember all said, before vanishing, the ghosts had a message to deliver and it had to be delivered to the police.
After following some leads and dead ends, Peter brought Abigail in to help with splicing and deconstructing hours and hours of CCTV footage. So it appears Nightingale has decided to take on another student, when she comes of age, of course. Right now though, she’s showing a great deal of talent for magic and will probably turn out to be a faster learner than Peter. And she has a friend in the foxes, which doesn’t really mean anything at this point. Interesting development; looking forward to seeing more.
On Peter’s end of the case, it was all very standard Falcon procedure, and all of it was hilariously described in his usual dry sardonic voice.
“Preliminary Falcon assessment,” said Jaget.
“We at the Folly have embraced the potentialities of modern policing,” I said
He would have liked blood samples as well, but we’ve found that people are strangely reluctant to give up their bodily fluids to the police for science.
From a policing perspective, motive is always going to be less important than means and opportunity. Who knows why anybody does anything, right?
The woman who answered the door gave a familiar little start when she saw us and hesitated before saying–“Ah, yes.”
We know that reaction well–it is the cry of the guilty middle-class homeowner.
This sort of thing always create a dilemma since the scale of guilt you’re dealing with ranges from using a hosepipe during a ban to having just finished cementing your abusive husband into the patio.
They started with a bell ring, a police knock, then a fist bang accompanied by shouts of “we’re the police” which was then bellowed through the letterbox.
Peter, being Peter, had quite a few hilarious turns in the investigation. He even managed to lure a ghost to him, using Toby as bait, to get her “statement,” which was the big lead he needed that turned this case from a weird ghost problem to a missing persons investigation, which then lead to a kidnapped woman trapped behind a solid brick wall in a cellar full of empty jars that used to hold ghosts.
Now I feel bad for previously saying Peter was bad at his job. So I wanna go on record and apologize. He may not be as advanced in his career as I’d like him to be, being a slower to catch on to magic than Leslie, but I must give credit where credit is due: he is quick on his feet and always manages to find a workaround for magic he isn’t yet capable of handling. Remembering those glow bats from Foxglove Summer and using Toby as a vestigia detector always make me laugh.
Anyhow. This case did not turn out to be what I expected. It was so much better and a huge surprise at that. I definitely did not see how a paranormal investigation could lead to missing persons during the read, but it was superbly done. What’s more is we’re introduced to a new kind of magic–trapping ghosts. Those ghost jars are no doubt a major development for the Folly, and,hopefully, they will feature in later books because I can’t see Nightingale not tinkering with them until he figures out a way to recreate the ghost traps and then using them for Falcon cases.
Overall, an excellent installment. I wouldn’t mind if there’s more like it in the works. *wink, wink*
Oh, and those little footnotes at the end for Agent Reynolds? Hilarious and very cute. Please add more. As usual, I had to look up a few things during the read like “mispers,” “pret,” “fried chicken stroke,” “waitrose bag,” “Nando’s,” “POLSA,” to name a few. And “refs” are apparently not short for referees, but refreshments.
The only thing I couldn’t find a definitive answer to was “tuck.” There’s a scene in which Nightingale tells Peter about how he used to snuck out to the woods with other boarding school boys to “swap comics and tucks.” What is a tuck?