So, I’ve been behind on my reviews of the Peter Grant novels (having only done a review of the first book – released in the US as Midnight Riot and the second novel, Moon Over Soho), so I’m going to do something of a blanket review of the first 7 novels, which effectively make up one massive story arc, which I’m going to call “The Faceless Man Arc”.
A Different Kind of Urban Fantasy
The Peter Grant novels are a very different take on Urban Fantasy then most works in the genre. The genre tends to take one of two main tacks. There’s either Paranormal Romance, or there’s Supernatural Noir. The Peter Grant series takes a third tack – Paranormal Police Procedural.
The protagonist of the series is Peter Grant, a Police Constable (later a Detective), for the London Metropolitan Police, or The Met. After a supernatural encounter with a ghost in the start of Midnight Riot, Peter Grant ends up getting attached to the branch of the Met related to investigating the supernatural – known as The Folly – and gets trained in magic by the head (and at the start of the series only member of The Folly), Thomas Nightingale, a veteran of the second world war who at some point recently has started aging in reverse.
Further, over the course of the series, Grant ends up learning that the work of the Folly isn’t, to draw an American comparison, like Grimm, where you’re dealing exclusively with supernatural entities that are stepping out of line. Indeed, there are magical practitioners outside of the Folley, and some of them have gotten into crime – with the ringleader of the group being a person first encountered in Moon Over Soho known as The Faceless Man.
This leads to the main thrust of the series – finding out what the Faceless Man is up to, finding out who they are, and stopping them. All of this is done within the framework of the London police force – which means that the way the procedure of the Met comes up a lot over the course of these investigations, both in the ways the Met is supposed to handle crimes, and where things fall apart when they step into the territory of Magic, or (as it called fairly early on by one of the Sergeants that Peter works with “Silly Bollocks”).
Missed potential for social commentary
As part of an interesting bit with this is the fact that Peter Grant is black, and one of the first real Practitioners who are Black in the UK for quite some time. Similarly, a lot of the supernatural entities Peter Grant works within what is referred to as the Demimonde (Latin for “Underworld”, used because Latin is the language of magic and to distinguish it from the mundane criminal underworld) are people of color as well. It could get for an interesting discussion of race in policing in the UK, but I never feel like they get into that. Or, if they do, I completely miss it.
Some of this also comes up when it comes to the motivations of The Faceless Man. Without spoiling who they are, their ultimate goal basically becomes To Make Britain Great Again – by cranking up the magic level to take Britain back to the glory days of Arthur. It’s a very fascist viewpoint, though I, unfortunately, feel like it’s never really called out as such. The Faceless man makes racist remarks about Peter, one of his partners on the force – PC (later Detective) Ghuleed – and also applies similar language to the Demimonde.
Now, it’s not like author Andrew Cartmel has to lay out his bonafides. He was a writer for Doctor Who during the latter portion of the 7th Doctor’s run – the time that leads to Paradise Towers, Happiness Patrol, Greatest Show in the Galaxy, Remembrance of the Daleks, and Silver Nemesis. That’s several stories with very pointed social commentary and two stories with literal and metaphorical Nazis in the story. I would have liked something to call out the Faceless Man, particularly in the later stories, as a Skinhead in a posh coat of paint.
Still, I appreciate the fact that these books provide a very different form of Urban Fantasy mystery, in terms of style and setting. I’m definitely looking forward to picking up the next book in the series, and going on from there I will try to review the books one at a time.
All of the books are available from Amazon.com, though for some reason the page for the series only has the first 6 books. Book 7 – Lies Sleeping is listed separately. All of the books are available in hardcover, paperback, Kindle, and Audiobook editions – and I highly recommend the audiobooks, as the reader, Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, is fantastic. Buying anything through those links help to support the site.