In the criminal justice system, magical crimes are considered especially bizarre. In London, the detectives who investigate these crimes are increasingly beset by dangers both mundane and otherworldly. These are their stories. Dun DUN.
Here’s the thing, this entire series is fantastic. It is magic cops in London. Let me repeat, it’s about magic cops who deal with magical crimes, in London. It’s like if you took The X-Files and threw it in a blender with Harry Potter and some very, very British cop show that I’m sure exists but I haven’t seen, and then blended it into a delightful smoothie for everyone to enjoy.
And that’s not even the half of it. It’s just a complete delight, and every new book adds to the feast.
Dang, that’s a lot of talk about food. I didn’t realize I was that hungry.
The Hanging Tree builds on all of the stories that came before it (yes, even the comic that I still haven’t read but was referenced more than once during this book) and a few long-running plot-lines are, well, not entirely tied up, but advanced in ways I never anticipated.
It finally dawned on me, as I set the e-book down after tearing through it at a breakneck pace, that the central conflict in this series is the same conflict we’re dealing with at a macro, real world level: tradition vs. modernity, old vs. new, and immigrant vs. nativist. Our heroes are a motley, diverse bunch, full of people of all races, all genders, all sexualities, and all backgrounds, and their strength comes from that diversity. They’re willing to apply new solutions to old problems, to re-contextualize, they bring their diverse backgrounds and strengths together to crack cases that they never could have solved on their own.
It’s a team effort. And the cost of entry is pretty much the willingness to pitch in and get your hands dirty.
There’s a fascinating moment between Peter Grant, the hero of our tale, and Lady Tyburn that served as my light bulb moment. A little backstory: Lady Tyburn is the incarnation of the Tyburn river, a daughter to her mother Thames. She’s a demigod and a black woman, just like her mother. But once upon a time Lady Ty was Lord Ty, a white man, and his apparition has appeared to Peter a time or two. When Peter finally gets the chance to ask Lady Ty about it, she replies that her prior incarnation is like a dream she can hardly remember.
Whole papers could be written about the construction of gods (and, in fact, now that I think about it, Aaronovitch is clearly influenced by Gaiman, just writing on the other side of the Pond), but that’s not what my light bulb was about. Aaronovitch is saying, in no uncertain terms, that a black woman, daughter of an immigrant, is just as English as any white man who might have lived before her. She is London. Peter, a black man and the son of an immigrant, is London. Sahra Guleed, a Muslim woman and an immigrant, is London. Length of residency or skin color doesn’t determine whether you belong to a place or not. In fact, they don’t matter in the slightest.
Can you tell that I love these books? Because I really love these books.
Plus, it doesn’t hurt that the main character, Peter Grant, is the most wonderful nerd that ever nerded. This is a guy whose first instinct, when encountering magic, was to wonder, “How can I science the shit out of this?” And then he does! And it’s awesome! He’s also the guy who has whole, serious conversations about which Harry Potter house he’d be sorted into, who references Star Wars at the drop of a hat, who knows a little bit about a lot of things and enough about Tolkien’s Elvish language to recognize it, even if he wasn’t able to translate it there on the spot.
Peter Grant is amazing. And if you don’t agree with me, well, then, you’re wrong and I hope you can live with that.
I definitely recommend this book. But only if you’re caught up on the series. And if you’re not caught up on the series, what are you waiting for? They’re magic cops in London. Let me repeat: They’re magic cops. In London. And they’re awesome.