The Hanging Tree (Rivers of London)

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9780756409678: The Hanging Tree (Rivers of London)
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Ben Aaronovitch's bestselling Rivers of London urban fantasy series · “The perfect blend of CSI and Harry Potter.” —io9

Suspicious deaths are not usually the concern of Police Constable Peter Grant or the Folly—London’s police department for supernatural cases—even when they happen at an exclusive party in one of the flats of the most expensive apartment blocks in London. But the daughter of Lady Ty, influential goddess of the Tyburn river, was there, and Peter owes Lady Ty a favor.

Plunged into the alien world of the super-rich, where the basements are bigger than the houses, where the law is something bought and sold on the open market, a sensible young copper would keep his head down and his nose clean.

But this is Peter Grant we’re talking about.

He’s been given an unparalleled opportunity to alienate old friends and create new enemies at the point where the world of magic and that of privilege intersect. Assuming he survives the week...

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About the Author:

Ben Aaronovitch was born in London in 1964 and had the kind of dull routine childhood that drives a man either to drink or to science fiction. He is a screenwriter, with early notable success on BBC's legendary Doctor Who, for which he wrote some episodes now widely regarded as classics, and which even he is quite fond of. After a decade of such work, he decided it was time to show the world what he could really do, and embarked on his first serious original novel. The result is Midnight Riot, the debut adventure of Peter Grant. He can be contacted at his website, http://www.the-folly.com/.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

1
One of Sir Roger’s Lesser Works

I dreamed that I heard Mr. Punch laughing gleefully by my ear, but when I woke I realized it was my phone. I recognized the number on the screen and so wasn’t surprised by the cool, posh voice that spoke when I answered.

“Peter,” said Lady Ty, “do you remember when we spoke at Oxford Circus?”

I remembered her finding me after I’d managed to get myself buried under the platform. I remembered her leaning over me once they’d dug me out, her breath smelling of nutmeg and saffron.

“One day I will ask you for a favor. And do you know what your response will be?”

“Yes ma’am,” I said, remembering what I’d said then. “No ma’am—three bags full, ma’am.”

It was five in the morning—still dark—and rain was smattering against the French windows at the far end of Beverley’s bedroom. The only serious light came from the screen of my phone. The other half of the big bed was empty—I was alone.

“One of my daughter’s friends has had an accident,” said Lady Ty. “I want you to ensure my daughter is not implicated in the subsequent investigation.”

Oh shit, I thought. That kind of favor.

She gave me the address and what she knew of the circumstances.

“You want me to prove your daughter wasn’t involved?” I said.

“You misunderstand,” said Lady Ty. “I don’t care what her involvement is—I want her kept out of the case.”

She really had no idea what she was asking for, but I knew better than to try and explain.

“Understood,” I said.

“And Peter,” said Lady Ty, “Nightingale is not to know about this—is that clear?”

“Crystal,” I said.

As soon as she hung up, I called the Folly.

“I rather think I’d have to have taken an interest in any case,” said Nightingale once I’d briefed him. “Still, I shall endeavor to adopt a façade of ignorance until such time as you need me.” He paused and then said: “And you will let me know when that moment arrives.” It was not a question.

“Yes, sir,” I said, and hung up wondering why everyone felt the need to be so emphatic at this time of the morning.

Beverley owns both halves of a 1920s semi-detached house on Beverley Avenue in SW20. It’s a strange place, half furnished and under-used. Beverley told me when I first visited that she “sort of inherited it” and hasn’t really decided what to do with the property yet. She sleeps in a ground floor room with easy access to the back garden. There’s just the Ikea bed with an incomprehensible name, two mismatched wardrobes, an antique mahogany chest of drawers and a Persian carpet that covers half the bare floorboards.
I reached out and felt the empty side of the bed—there was just a trace of warmth and a hint of oil on the pillow—Beverley had slipped away hours ago. I sighed, got out from under the warm duvet and shivered. The French windows were half open, letting in a cool breeze and the smell of rain. The bathroom upstairs didn’t have a shower so I had a quick bucket bath in the huge oval tub, which I knew from happy experience easily accommodated two people at once, and got dressed.

Everything related to operational matters in the Met is monitored. Which means you can’t just open your AWARE terminal and go fishing for information without having a damn good excuse.

So while I was buffing up my shoes I called DC Guleed, who I knew was doing the night shift in the Homicide Assessment car that week.

“Hi Peter,” she said. Behind her I could hear a hushed indoor ambiance and people being professional.

I asked whether she’d heard of a shout in Knightsbridge, a suspicious drug-related death.

“Why do you want to know?” asked Guleed, which I suspected meant she was on the scene.

In the background I heard a vast and familiar Mancunian voice demanding to know who Guleed was talking to—DCI Alexander Seawoll. Who, as SIO, shouldn’t even be out of bed until the Homicide Assessment Team had finished their work.

“It’s Peter,” she called back. “He wants to know about our suspicious death.”

“Tell him if it’s not one of his he can fuck off,” said Seawoll.

“Do you have an interest in this?” asked Guleed.

“There may be some related issues,” I said, which was sort of true given that Tyburn’s daughter was involved. I heard Guleed pass this on and some grumbled swearing from Seawoll.

“Tell him to get his arse down here pronto,” he said.

“He wants you to come in,” said Guleed and gave me the address.

Before I left I switched off my phone and stepped out the back into the garden. The rain had eased to a misty drizzle that quickly beaded my hair and the leather of my jacket. Beverley’s garden is vast by London standards, running fifty meters down to the bank of the river, and twice as wide as her neighbors’. Despite the light pollution sullenly reflected off the low cloud, I decided not to risk tripping over the random bits of garden furniture I knew littered the overgrown lawn and conjured a werelight to show me the way.

Beverley Brook rises in Worcester Park in southeast London and flows through a ridiculous number of other parks, recreation grounds and golf courses before joining her mother at Barn Elms. She says that while she averages half a cubic meter of water per second, she’s had it up to six cubic meters per second a couple of times. And unless she gets some more care, attention and the occasional bottle of Junipero Gin, she’s not going to be responsible for where that surplus water’s going to end up.

Not a threat, you understand. But it’s wise not to take a river for granted—trust me on this.

At the end of Beverley’s garden is a bank fringed with young alder and ash striplings that drops down to the river. For most of its length Beverley Brook is shallow enough that you can clearly see the stones at the bottom, but here there was a deep pool overshadowed by a weeping willow. The surface was dark and coldly reflected my milky blue werelight as it bobbed around me in a slow orbit.

“Hey, Bev,” I called. “You in there?”

For all I knew she was kilometers away visiting her mum’s place in Wapping. Or patrolling the Thames for waifs and suicides, or whatever else it was she and her sisters spend their time searching for. 

But she’s been known to surface when I’ve called her name, and once she leaped like a salmon, naked and glistening, into my arms—so it’s always worth a try.

This time there was no response. Just the drizzle and the grumble of the Kingston Bypass on the other side of the river. I waited about a minute, just so I could claim I’d waited five, and then headed back up the garden.

I walked out via the side gate, past Beverley’s Kia Picanto to where the Orange Asbo was parked. Once inside I checked my evidence bag was in the back and that the Airwave charger was plugged in, started her up and headed for Knightsbridge.
One Hyde Park squatted next to the Mandarin Oriental Hotel like a stack of office furniture, and with all the elegance and charm of the inside of a photocopier. Albeit a brand new photocopier that doubled as a fax and a document scanner. Now, I have—as Beverley says—views about architecture. But there’s modern stuff I like. The Gherkin, the Lloyd’s building, even the Shard—despite the nagging feeling I get that Nazgûl should be roosting at the top. But the truth is that in the case of One Hyde Park my boy Sir Roger was definitely just putting in the hours for the pay check. It’s not ugly as such . . . it’s just not anything in particular. It is famously the most expensive block of flats in Britain, which just goes to show that property really is all about location, location, location.

The actual building is comprised of four towers that the brochures call “pavilions” running between the Oriental Mandarin Hotel on the east side and the Edinburgh Gate into Hyde Park on the west. The north and south aspects are wedged-shaped to maximize natural daylight. As a result, if you look at a floor plan it looks like two Star Destroyers have backed into each other during maneuvers. As I approached up the A4 I saw that all the lights were out on every floor, except for one flat halfway up the second tower from the end—so no trouble finding the crime scene, then.

Parking was a different matter, but the secret to avoiding a ticket when you’re police is to snuggle your reasonably priced unmarked motor in among the Battenberg checked IRVs and sprinter vans that accumulate at any crime scene. These I found crowded under the strange concrete canopy that stretches over the Edinburgh Gate. I noticed they also blocked the driveway to where the car lifts waited to whisk the money-mobiles of the rich down to the underground car park. 

I’d read that the facilities below ground included a private gym, swimming pool, squash court and wine cellars—I really hoped that I didn’t have to go down there. It’s not that I’m claustrophobic, only that I’ve had practical experience of just how much the sodding earth can weigh and the taste despair can leave in your mouth.

Guleed was waiting by the cylindrical glass entrance to the lobby. Having worked with me on numerous occasions, she fell on me with cries of glee.

“I don’t suppose you’d just consider fucking off?” she said.

I was shocked.

“Language,” I said.

“Don’t you start,” she said.

I noticed she was wearing a rather fine purple silk hijab with a fringe design picked out in silver thread, a matching jacket and an elegant long black skirt. I did not think she’d planned to be out policing tonight.

“Did you have a date?” I asked.

“No,” she said. “Birthday party.”

“I thought you were in the HAT car this week.”

“I swapped,” she said. “So I could go to the birthday party.”

“Oh,” I said. “Sorry.”

“Is this going to be like the thing with the BMWs?” she asked.

“I don’t know,” I said. “I’ve only just got here.”

Guleed nodded to the PCSO guarding the entrance. 

“Put him on the list,” she said and then to me: “You’re going to love this place.”

She led me through the transparent cylindrical airlock style door onto a mezzanine balcony and down a set of stairs into a double height reception area with leather chairs and the sort of meaningless sculpture that’s bought by the ton by particularly greedy banks. Through transparent walls, rumored to be bullet proof, I could see a small faux garden and—through another layer of security glass—the dim and dangerous streets of downtown Knightsbridge.

Beside the reception desk stood a fit looking man with brown skin, black hair and a good quality off-the-peg suit. Possibly Indonesian, I thought. He also managed the trick of looking both alert and bored out of his skull at the same time—ex-Job, ex-military, ex-intelligence—something like that.

The level of security struck me as a bit paranoid but, as my dad says, the more they have the more they worry about it being taken away.

The security man gave me and Guleed a sour look as we passed and I responded with a friendly smile and a cheery “Good morning.” Because I am an officer of the law and, providing I’m not nobbled by political considerations and/or influence peddling, my arm doth reach into all places, yea even unto the citadels of the mighty.

This particular citadel of the mighty was reached by a glass sided lift which ran up a completely transparent service core that allowed one—and one assumes that here one refers to one as one—to appreciate the view over Hyde Park which, after all, is what one has paid upward of ten million to enjoy.

The glass elevator led out into a cross passage where we did the dance of the noddy suit whereby the grave dignity of the law is mitigated by the need to hop on one foot while you try and get the stupid paper leg over the other. Guleed, it turned out, was wearing leggings under her skirt—which she left, along with her scarf, in the clear plastic bag provided. Once we were safely zipped up in our hygienic, forensically neutral paper suits Guleed led me to the left, where a pair of mahogany doors had been propped open with a portable light stand. Beyond was a short hallway with a curved far wall and a lot of abstract art on the walls. 

In home furnishing terms, past a certain point, more money doesn’t get you anything except an increase in insurance premiums. An elegantly proportioned room can have whitewashed walls and a bare wooden floor. But if it’s an awkward shape, then all the piano-finish rosewood occasional tables riches can provide aren’t going to do anything more than annoy the cleaners. One Hyde Park, I saw, had all the basic architectural charm of a brutalist council flat—except on a larger scale. The rooms were much wider, of course. But pressure to maximize the number of flats meant that the ceilings were disproportionately low.

We found Seawoll just around the corner in what the plans listed as a “study.” The architects had laid out each wing to maximize the light, with a long central corridor and side rooms branching off like the veins in a leaf. This meant they all had walls on the diagonal, severely restricting the decorator’s choice about where furniture could be placed. If you didn’t want to block the doors, the access or blot out the windows then the beds, cupboards, shelves, and all the other stuff that turns a concrete box into a home had to go where the architect thought they should go. In the study, this meant a desk that could neither face the window for the view nor face away to take advantage of the light. Instead, the black mirror finish desk with the stainless steel legs stood in front of matching glass fronted bookcases that, as far as I could tell, contained a number of lumpy glass and chrome objects and a couple of soft porn albums cunningly disguised as cutting edge nude photography. Still in their shrink wrap, I noticed.

Seawoll sat in the executive leather operator’s chair behind the desk wearing a dangerously stretched noddy suit that made him look like the Michelin Man’s slightly deflated older brother.

“You’ll notice that you can’t swivel all the way round,” he said. “What fucking use is a swivel chair if you can’t fucking swivel on it?” He spotted me trying to read the titles on the books.

“Don’t bother, they’re just window dressing,” he said. “As far as we can tell nobody lives here.”

I looked at a framed photograph of a young white woman with a dog.

“Who owns the place, then?” I asked.

“Some tax dodging shell company out of Jersey,” said Seawoll, running his fingers along the bottom of the desk top—looking for secret drawers, I guessed. “We won’t be able to trace that until the lads at Proactive Money Laundering can drag one of their experts out of bed.” He gave up on the idea of secret drawer and jabbed a finger at Guleed.

“Sahra,” he said. “Get on the phone and give them a kicking.”

“Gladly,” said Guleed, and left.

“Her brother’s an accountant,” said Seawoll, watching her go. “So. What the fuck are you doing here?”

I considered lying for all of about two nano- seconds, but I don’t have a death wish—not even a figurative one. Of course, philosophically speaking, truth is a slippery concept and one should always be alive to nuance.

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Book Description DAW BOOKS, 2017. Paperback. Condition: New. Reissue. Language: English . Brand New Book. Ben Aaronovitch s bestselling Rivers of London urban fantasy series - The perfect blend of CSI and Harry Potter. --io9 Suspicious deaths are not usually the concern of Police Constable Peter Grant or the Folly--London s police department for supernatural cases--even when they happen at an exclusive party in one of the flats of the most expensive apartment blocks in London. But the daughter of Lady Ty, influential goddess of the Tyburn river, was there, and Peter owes Lady Ty a favor. Plunged into the alien world of the super-rich, where the basements are bigger than the houses, where the law is something bought and sold on the open market, a sensible young copper would keep his head down and his nose clean. But this is Peter Grant we re talking about. He s been given an unparalleled opportunity to alienate old friends and create new enemies at the point where the world of magic and that of privilege intersect. Assuming he survives the week. Seller Inventory # ABZ9780756409678

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