The Hanging Tree is the sixth novel in the PC Peter Grant series by Ben Aaronovitch. I thought it was the last in the series, but luckily I was wrong.
Peter is back in London and finds himself assigned to a case of accidental overdose. There doesn’t seem to be anything ‘Folly’ related about the case, until it becomes clear one of the witnesses is the daughter of Lady Ty. Goddess of River Tyburn. Sister of his girlfriend Beverly Brook. And she’s going to cash in that favour he owes her for saving his life when he was buried alive.
Sahra Guleed, a.k.a. the Muslim ninja, is back! I didn’t know how much I missed her until she appeared back on the page. She also appeared in Moon Over Soho and Whispers Underground (where Peter got buried alive) and I immensely enjoy her interactions with Peter. Like him, she’s a proper cop, and I can see them partnering up permanently, if Nightingale and Seawoll allow it. Which I think they would: Sahra and Peter work well together, she’s been entangled in Folly-related cases before and Nightingale has a high opinion of her.
Speaking of the Folly; it seems Peter and Nightingale are carefully opening the doors to modernisation and maybe even adding personnel. Dr. Wallid already gets an assistant in this book, and I’m curious to see who else might join the team.
You know I only realised halfway through the book? How normal it feels to read about a protagonist who is of mixed race and how it affects his life (holy racism batman!). As a WOC myself, I also perked up when the hero wasn’t white. But here it’s not just Peter. Almost everyone around him is a POC, and most of them are women.
We’ve got his mother, Beverly, Lady Ty and basically all the river goddesses in London, Guleed, Abigail, and all of this is just off the top of my head. There’s so much diversity in these books, and yet it doesn’t stick out. It’s just normal. Guleed and Wallid are Muslim. Stephanopoulis is happily married to a woman, Dominic has a boyfriend. The women in Peter’s life are all very capable, and have agency. Plenty of people he interacts with are actually non-human; take Molly for example, or Zack. Someone pointed out to me that Peter never actually points out someone’s skin colour unless they’re white; it’s almost a reversal of some kind. A reversal I didn’t even pick up on, but maybe that’s because I, like Peter, live in a multicultural country. I expect to see all manner of colours around me.
Anyway, this book gives us a lot more insight into the Faceless Man, his life and personality than I thought it would. I wasn’t expecting the Faceless Man to show up, to be honest, and certainly not in the way he did. I did expect Lesley May to pop ‘round, but also not in the way she did. This series keeps surprising me in a good way.
There was a whopper at the end presented by Lady Ty that I didn’t even think about, much like Peter, and I wonder how it will affect Peter’s relationship with Beverly. That’s all I can say without spoiling anything.
I can’t wait for the next book!