Lies Sleeping
April 16, 2019 4:33 AM - by Ben Aaronovitch - Subscribe

The Faceless Man, wanted for multiple counts of murder, fraud, and crimes against humanity, has been unmasked and is on the run. Peter Grant, Detective Constable and apprentice wizard, now plays a key role in an unprecedented joint operation to bring him to justice. But even as the unwieldy might of the Metropolitan Police bears down on its foe, Peter uncovers clues that the Faceless Man, far from being finished, is executing the final stages of a long term plan. A plan that has its roots in London's two thousand bloody years of history, and could literally bring the city to its knees.
posted by dinty_moore (6 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Housekeeping notes:

We're still going after this one, and switching to posts for the short stories (next week) and then one TPB of the comics a week. I've also added The October Man to the end of the reading schedule, since we manage to finish up with the comics the week it comes out.

For how to cover the short stories - I've started a club talk post about what exactly that should include and if anything should happen in separated posts.

And in case anyone missed it, the next full-length novel, False Value, has been announced for November 2019 and has a blurb. (Fanfare typically has a no discussing the teasers rule, but anyone can create a club talk post specifically about the blurb if they want)
posted by dinty_moore at 4:51 AM on April 16, 2019

* This was a stressful one - there's a couple of quiet-ish hangout moments in the first third of the book, but then it just goes from traumatic event to fight to traumatic event with not much of a space to breathe. And they're all tired at the start of the book - there's that line about the stress of Nightingale and Seawoll working together getting to them, plus Peter trying to explain work-life balance to Nightingale. There was something like six months of Operation Jennifer before this even started?

*Bev's fear that Peter was going to jump at the end was palpable and hit me hard, as well as all of the comments about people worrying about Peter in the background. More than any of the previous books I wanted to be able to escape Peter's point of view for a bit and see how everyone else was reacting, especially around Peter's abduction.

* On my first read, Peter's narration was so closed off and repressed that I was seriously worried he was talking to Lesley outside of the narration (a la Wolf Hall) and was about to do something stupid. I'm glad that they didn't take that approach, but Peter was so frayed that I could imagine him considering it and having it not be completely out of character.

* Peter's having people listen to him still, but it feels a lot different than it did in Lies Sleeping - like that tipping point between 'Oh wow, people trust me enough to listen to me and maybe do what I say' and 'oh no, people are paying attention to what I say and following my suggestions' feelings of new management. Which is fitting, considering his new rank. Plus, I definitely got this feeling that sometimes Nightingale and Seawoll were listening to Peter more because they were desperate and fuck all, they've tried everything else.

* I do think that conversation between Nightingale and Peter right after Nightingale extends an invitation to Patrick Gale about trust and going public is going to come up again later. There's this thing about trusting people and empathizing with them - sometimes it doesn't work (it certainly didn't with Lesley). But overall Team Folly has been fairly lucky so far with who they have chosen to trust - and all of those people have been people that Peter seems to generally like. Now it's also been expanded to amoral Russian witches and entitled assholes - does community policing still hold up? And what happens when it doesn't? And how can you practice community policing with a secret society?
posted by dinty_moore at 8:17 PM on April 16, 2019 [3 favorites]

Okay, that Lesley conversation - or at least my thoughts on it.

So, way back in RoL/MR, there's this point early where Peter is drunk and despairing over his future with Lesley, and they end up asking each other why they want to be cops. Peter gives a very canned answer that amounts to 'I want to help the community' which is taken as bunk - but, considering that two of Peter's strengths are being able to speak bureaucrat and being able to empathize with the community, can actually be taken as a solid bit of characterization early on - you know, along with him not wanting to give a straightforward answer to something that could be emotionally revealing. Lesley says she's a cop because it's what she's good at - and that she's really good at being a cop. (it's on page 12 of my copy if you want to look it up)

And here's that thing about Lesley - I think she still thinks she's good at the job. And by her definition of what makes a good cop, she might be. If the job is just 'stopping the bad guys', yeah, Lesley is good at that. She regularly notices crimes and is efficient in catching the perpetrators while Peter gets distracted. In that same conversation, she states that she doesn't really believe it's possible to bring order - so that's obviously not part of it. Does it involve any sort of helping the community? It's noted several times in the earlier books that's not Lesley's strong point, to say the least - if being a cop required caring about members of a community, she'd be kind of shit at it.

I refound that conversation during our Broken Homes discussion and it reminded me all of the cops that didn't seem to think that any sort of community focus is part of their jobs*. And in some way, Lesley seems like the logical end for only caring about catching bad guys, everything else be fucked.

(Interestingly, Nightingale's starting point was probably 'maintain order, everything else be fucked'. I don't think he was especially effective at catching bad guys or helping the community, but all the agreements were maintained just fine.)

I don't know how much of what she says that one can believe - if she were so concerned about keeping Peter alive she probably wouldn't try to kill him, and the fact that she seems to take some joy in using that taser on him. But I do believe her when she's says she thinks London is shit - there isn't anyone else around, and other than maybe distracting Peter into an argument, doesn't seem to have any advantage to say. She's not from there. She's been low-key contemptuous of the demi-monde for a while: she jokingly calls Beverley (and the other rivers) a monster in Whispers Underground and a little less jokingly in Broken Homes. Even the way she talks about Zach is suspect - I'm certainly not going to take 'willing to fuck him' as a measure of any sort of respect. Racism may or may not be her driving force the way it was Chorley's, but there does still seem to be different classes of people in her mind, some more worthy of the met's protection than others, and she's more than willing to use racism for her own ends - so same difference.

I'm still sort of conflicted about the fact that the main people we see in the demi-monde, the Rivers, are able to control people without much of a consequence - it's something that Lesley brings up a lot as a justification. On the other hand, this isn't the first time I've heard of an community described as violent as a reason to violate their human rights.

And yeah, I believe she wants Punch dead.

*Specifically, and I didn't want to go 'I was listening to this podcast' on you all, but there's a point early on in 16 shots where Laquan McDonald's murderer, Jason Van Dyke, is asked whether or not he thinks he was a good cop. Van Dyke answers "I was a great cop". The reporter then goes to describe the number of excessive force citations against Van Dyke before the Laquan McDonald' murder. Now, this a recorded interview with his lawyer present right before his trial started, so who knows what he actually thought, but it's still where my mind went to first.
posted by dinty_moore at 4:39 PM on April 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

Sorry, really late to the table.

This book has all of Aaronovitch’s virtues and faults on full display. Peter is, as usual, a delicately portrayed unreliable narrator, skilled at and desirous of social interactions who is particularly and regularly isolated in the story. Some of the minor characters (the archeologist and the script writer/villains, eg) are economically sketched out in three dimensions. The Folly, The Met, and London feel fully alive and present, in surface and depths. The book is also woefully short and tangled, with plot elements rocketing out of nowhere (Walbrook, especially, should have been introduced a few volumes earlier, and Carey’s PTSD needed more set up), and the main plot never really congeals, like a b-plot TV episode after too many rewrites.

Chorley’s finale was... anticlimactic, but I’m not too bothered. He lived his life as a cypher, with only occasional hints of human motivation, so his abrupt exit after his big Bond Villain plot failure was satisfying enough. I wish more had been done with Lesley’s motivations... she hints at unforeshadowed dissatisfaction with the status quo*, but she never really gets a chance to get into it. I’d live a short story about Lesley and Zach — he clearly thinks he’s disposable to her, but I’d like to see them interact without other characters around. Lesley has definitely turned a corner, though; she tortures Peter and commits absolutely cold-blooded murder, and I don’t think she should be rehabilitated from that. Has she absorbed Chorley’s “everyone is a pawn” ethos? Is it her “ends justifies” approach driven to extremes? She has never seen perps as people the way Peter does, for good and bad; where is she now?

* I wonder how much of that is Aaronovitch’s reaction to Brexit, just like MeFi’s own cstross has to swerve his Laundry novels to account for it.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:08 AM on April 25, 2019 [1 favorite]

(as the fact that I'm just getting around to responding like two weeks later, I think it's safe to say that 'really late' to a fanfare thread is maybe a year or two later, and even then it's totally fine)

* I wonder how much of that is Aaronovitch’s reaction to Brexit, just like MeFi’s own cstross has to swerve his Laundry novels to account for it.

I've wondered what's going to happen with Brexit when we hit June 2016 in the timeline. Lies Sleeping happens in summer 2015, baby Grant-Thames is probably due in the Spring - so maybe not False Value, but the next book? The problem with setting one's fantasy series in the recent past is that readers expect urban fantasy settings to be somewhat believable, and that's been a tall order for the last few years. And yet, it's a big enough thing that it seems like it'd have to be addressed somehow.

On the other hand, voters finding out that a Nigerian immigrant and her many daughters have the power to trick 'hardworking British folk' into giving them whatever they want for free and have positioned themselves in control of sections of the government and the media is a more believable explanation of Brexit than acutal Brexit.
posted by dinty_moore at 2:50 PM on May 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

I am very late to the party but I finally got caught up! These posts are so insightful! Reading them to my wife now.

I don't know if I have much to add. I agree the plot seemed a bit of a mishmosh, even if the characterization is as strong as ever. I did think the side plot of Foxglove and Molly was a fascinating bit of worldbuilding. What other little aftermaths of old unsavory deals are hidden around the countryside? Reading October Man later and how they had to do so much cleanup after WWII made me think of this as well. Short story material maybe?

What is Leslie's next goal? Is she still trying to mess with London or just escape and go be magic somewhere? I'm curious about her motives.
posted by Wretch729 at 10:11 AM on October 5, 2019 [2 favorites]

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