I lost track of how many times a certain retailer let me know that my pre-order for this had been rescheduled, but now a little more than 2 years after The Rivers of London most recently flowed through these books, The Hanging Tree is out (in parts of the world, anyway). I'm firmly in the camp of those willing to let authors take their time to get the book right, but I'm just as firmly in the camp wanting authors of my favorite series to hurry up. Thankfully, whatever delayed this publication gave Aaronovitch the time he needed to deliver his best yet.
Peter's pushed into investigating a drug-related death, which soon shows itself to actually need a man of his particular skills when one of the parties involved (perhaps very involved) is the daughter of Lady Tyburn herself. Mostly anonymous teens up to illegal things, an overbearing mother to a suspect/witness, and the natural teenage disinclination to telling the police anything and you've got yourself a mess -- particularly when the overbearing mother isn't your biggest fan, and is a deity of sorts.
Along the way, Peter and Nightingale find the trail of a lost Newton masterpiece, a couple of interesting allies, and the return of some familiar, but not recently seen, foes. Some of what happens with returning adversaries will surprise, please, and frustrate long-time readers.
For series like this, more important than the plot are the characters -- and Aaronovitch did everything right on this front. A few notes on this Peter's more confident -- professionally and personally. He's coming along pretty well with his magic -- yay! At the same time, you can see the way that he's bringing change to the Folly little mannerisms and activities with Nightingale and Molly that you know they weren't going to be up to until Peter moved in. I liked how Bev was used -- even if she wasn't around as much as usual -- and the way their relationship is developing; her sister Lady Tyburn is probably used better here than ever before. There's a new assistant for Dr. Walid, Dr. Jennifer Vaughan -- we don't get a lot of her, but there's promise (and I like the fact that this universe is expanding). Lastly, I need to talk about Guleed -- I know she's been around awhile, but I didn't really click with her until this book (as much as I enjoyed her in Body Work) -- I like the way she works with Peter, the flavor she brings to things -- I hope we see a lot more of her.
Oh yeah, I almost forgot, there's a brief appearance by an author of note early on in the book -- I'd love for him to show up again in some context where Peter doesn't have to be so diplomatic with him. I chuckled a lot, and would love to hear Aaronovitch talk about this character and any real-life models he drew upon.
Not only do we get the typical Aaronovich-level stories and action, we get a big expansion in the number, types, and nationalities of magic users in this book. Not only are there the official practitioners of magic that The Folly is aware of, there are those they're not tracking (but probably should start). Just this shift alone in the universe makes this book a winner -- adding it to the rest is just frosting.
I'm really glad, incidentally, that I recently listened to the first audiobook in the series -- there's some significant call-backs to it throughout this book. I'd probably have been okay relying on memory, but the connections worked better for me with everything fresh in my head. Ditto for the number of references to Body Work - I'd have been fine not understanding the references made to it, they're not integral to anything, but it was fun knowing what Peter was talking about.
This took me too long to read -- which isn't Aaronovitch's fault, it's just been one of those weeks, every time I started to really get into this book, I was interrupted by something -- and it drove me crazy. Do what you can -- kill the phone, lock the door, grab some snacks and a beverage of your choice and settle in for Aaronovich's best yet, you won't want to put it down. I can't say enough good things about this.
Disclaimer: I received this eARC from DAW via NetGalley in exchange for this post -- thanks to both for this.