Literature: Rivers of London

aka: Midnight Riot
"A police whistle on Bow Street. For a moment I felt a connection, [...] with the night, the streets, the whistle and the smell of blood and my own fear, with all the other uniforms of London down the ages..."

Rivers of London is a series of books which follow the career of Peter Grant, Police Constable and apprentice wizard, as he tackles supernatural crime in London along with his superior officer, and Master Wizard, Detective Chief Inspector Nightingale. Written by former Doctor Who writer Ben Aaronovitch, the series comprises five books so far. Aaronovitch has been commissioned to write a further three.

The books are:
  • Rivers of London, or Midnight Riot in the US
  • Moon Over Soho
  • Whispers Under Ground
  • Broken Homes
  • Foxglove Summer
  • The Hanging Tree (Provisional title: Summer 2015)

Short stories
  • "Home Crowd Advantage"
  • "The Domestic"
  • "The Cockpit"
  • "The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Granny"
  • "King of the Rats"

Graphic Novels:

Co-written with Andrew Cartmel.

With its realistic London setting, it's a good example of Urban Fantasy where the Masquerade is maintained by a combination of stealth and public indifference.

There is a website where you can read about the background of the novel, including a Character Blog.

http://www.the-folly.com/

In June 2013 the series was optioned for television, and in January 2014 it was announced that Titan Comics had picked up the licence for a graphic novel adaptation (first installment to be called Body Work and due April 2015).

There is also an official Rivers of London Rap by Doc Brown and Mikis Michaelides.

The books contain examples of:

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    Tropes A to K 
  • Above the Influence: Peter turns down a very drunk Lesley about halfway through Whispers Under Ground.
  • Absurdly Spacious Sewer: Which is connected to the Absurdly Spacious Subway System, which leads to an Elaborate Underground Base of magical folk. Forms the setting of Whispers Under Ground; however in this instance (magic folk base aside) this is actually a case of Truth In Literature; the London Sewers and The London Underground are really that massive.
  • Acronym and Abbreviation Overload: The Metropolitan Police love this (probably Truth in Television). If an SIO in the SAU bungles his IIP, some ACPO will get his nose out of joint.
  • Adult Fear: There's bits throughout the series, but it hits a new level in Foxglove Summer. First, two children go missing with next to no trace whatsoever, and Peter makes comparisons to Soham and the Ian Huntley case. The kids are found... but it transpires that one of them is a changeling, and the original is still missing... until it turns out that no, that one is in fact the real deal, and the "original" was the changeling, who had been swapped more than a decade earlier without anybody noticing. The climax of the book is partly driven by the mother's desire to get the "original" back — she'd raised her for over ten years, after all.
  • Ain't Too Proud to Beg: Peter and, surprisingly, Lesley engage in some shameless begging when taken prisoner in book four as they wait for Nightingale to bring the cavalry.
  • Alcoholic Parent: Peter's dad is a serious and habitual heroin addict. He isn't a bad parent but just a bit ineffectual, although Peter's mother being an Apron Matron probably means she did all the parenting stuff anyway. As of the end of Moon Over Soho he's clean, and remarks that of all the drugs he quit, nicotine was the hardest.
  • Altum Videtur: The magic spells are all in Latin, but only because they were written down by Sir Isaac Newton (who used the language of Scientific Gentlemen of his day).
  • American Kirby Is Hardcore: The cover of the US edition transforms Peter from a mixed race nerd (by his own admission he looks more North African than anything else) into a Scary Black Man.
  • And I Must Scream: What the original Faceless Man did to Larry the Lark, reducing him to a living decapitated head and incorporating it into a fortune-telling booth, then abandoning him in a deserted nightclub for decades.
  • Anthropomorphic Personification: The Rivers themselves, and the Big Bad of book one.
  • Apron Matron: Mama Thames is this for the London Rivers. Peter's own Mum as well.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: In book one, Isis swears on her true name, her husband's life, and the future prospects of the Oxford Rowing Team that Peter will be safe.
  • Asshole Victim:
    • The would-be rapist whose victim has a Vagina Dentata. No efforts are spent in trying to confirm this though.
    • All the other victims in Soho fall squarely into this trope too.
  • Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: Leslie claims Peter is too easily-distracted to be a street cop. In his defense, Peter argues that if he were as focused as she'd like, he'd overlook vestigia and other subtle hints of the uncanny.
  • Awful Truth: Whatever it was Nightingale saw and did at Ettersberg (now known as Buchenwald).
  • Battle Discretion Shot: When Nightingale faces the Night Witch, Lesley and Peter have to take cover behind a Range Rover. They catch the roof of a barn literally blowing off the top, before the whole thing comes down. Shortly after that, a nearby house gets torn in half. Since they don't really get to see much of the action, just the after-effects and then the aftermath, it's almost like an in-universe Offscreen Moment of Awesome.
  • Bazaar of the Bizarre: The Goblin Market, which also functions as a bar/social club.
  • Beastly Bloodsports: Not shown, but the Faceless Man's Mooks in Broken Homes operated a dog-fighting ring. Their boss used the animals' painful deaths, and the animal-ghosts they generated, to power his demon traps.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: An extreme aversion with Lesley, whose beautiful face literally falls off at the end of the first book. As of book 3, reconstructive surgery has restored her speech and ability to eat solids, but she still wears a mask to avoid grossing people out.
  • Beneath the Earth: Whispers Underground eventually introduces us to "The Quiet People"/"The Whisperers" a society of fair folk who live underground, also there is a literal underground nightclub in an old military bunker frequented by members of London's magical society.
  • Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: Sir Isaac Newton was the founder of English magic. Historical figures like Dr. Polidori were Newtonian magicians.
  • Big Bad: Mister Punch in book one, the Faceless Man from book two onward.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Beverly has to be the BDH in Foxglove Summer, when Peter had expected Nightingale.
  • Big Eater: Zachary from book three.
  • Bishōnen: Inexplicably, Nightingale is turned into one of these on the Japanese covers.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Sure the Big Bads get stopped, but book one ends with Lesley's face falling off, book two ends with the suicide of Peter's love interest and her sisters when they realise what they are.
  • Black Comedy: Very much in evidence throughout, as police officers' sense of humour tends to this (which is Truth in Television). DC Trollope's version of Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking being a prime example.
  • Black Eyes of Evil: Molly gets these when she nearly attacks Peter after the hemomancy rite.
  • Black Mage: During World War II, the Russians created all female squads of these called the Night Witches. One of the surviving members shows up in the fourth book to have the a wizard vs. wizard duel with Nightingale, which is coincidentally the first time readers get to actually see the man cut loose. He's apparently so good that the Night Witch herself is impressed at the end of it all. The Germans had squads called Werewolves to combat enemy magicians. They were magic users themselves, but may or may not have been actual werewolves.
  • Body Horror:
    • The victims of Punch in book one.
    • Those of the Pale Lady surely qualify, at least for male readers.
  • Bookcase Passage: Not a bookcase, but there's an equally-cliché secret door into the subterranean navvy community in Whispers Under Ground. Played with when Peter presses a convenient brick simply to get the clichéd notion it'll open the door out of the way, and is amazed that it actually works.
  • Breather Episode: In Foxglove Summer, the ongoing arc is lightly pushed to one side as Peter heads out of London to deal with some countryside hijinks before receiving an ominous message near the end to say the arc elements will kick back in for the next book.
  • Britain Is Only London: Well, London and Thames Valley. Lampshaded in Moon Over Soho; Nightingale tells Peter that there's more to life than London, and Peter replies "People keep saying that, but I've never actually seen any proof."
  • Call Back: When Lesley demonstrates that she's taught herself to cast a werelight at the end of Moon Over Soho, Peter's response is almost word-for-word what he said in Rivers of London when he first successfully cast a werelight himself, only with the pronoun changed.
  • Cannibal Clan: Peter and Nightingale spook each other by speculating they might find one of these in Whispers Under Ground, mostly because they'd both seen the same schlock-horror movie about subterranean cannibals. Subverted, because the subterranean-adapted navvies raise albino pigs and get Tesco deliveries instead.
  • Cardboard Boxes/Fruit Cart/Sheet of Glass: Peter wishes that he could be lucky enough to encounter such obstacles while "going blues and twos" to a crime scene, instead of multi-ton street-sweeping machines or idiot drivers who won't heed the siren and get out of the way.
  • Cat Girl: Mentioned in Soho, as well as a Catboy, who is more 'western', being covered in fur from (at least) the waist up, and has a decidedly feline face. The fact that they are a Fetish for some people is deconstructed.
  • The Cavalry: Nightingale has to play this in book four when Peter and Lesley get captured. He really lets rip too.
  • Celebrity Resemblance: Peter gets teased for looking like Barack Obama.
  • Changeling Tale: Foxglove Summer begins with a missing child case that is eventually revealed to be one of these thanks to the The Fair Folk.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The E. coli outbreak from Whispers.
  • Children Are Innocent: The Ghost Magistrate doesn't see the harm in wife beating, but harm a child and he is a Hanging Judge.
  • Classy Cane: Nightingale has a silver tipped cane which he is rarely without.
  • Cliffhanger: Book four ends on one with Lesley's defection to evil.
  • Cold Iron:
    • Mentioned to be a problem for the river folk in Moon Over Soho, when one of them gets an iron railing straight through him.
    • Further upheld in Foxglove Summer, where Peter uses a staff with an iron cap to wound a unicorn.
  • The Consigliere: Oxley is this to Father Thames. Tyburn would like to be this to Mama Thames, but comes across as closer to The Starscream.
  • Cool Car: Nightingale's classic Jaguar (a Mark 2 XK6) and Beverly Brook's new MINI.
  • Compelling Voice:
    • Lady Ty.
    • The Faceless Man.
    • Punch, while on stage at least.
  • Cordon Bleugh Chef: Molly's culinary experiments in book four leave a lot to be desired, like edibility or actually knowing what it's made from.
  • Covers Always Lie:
    • The blurb on the UK version tries to sell the book as a Harry Potter clone. Anyone who bought the book on the basis of that is in for a shock. The US version has its own problems, downplaying the whimsical aspect of the novels and selling them as thrillers.
    • The blurb on UK version of Whispers Underground gives the impression that Agent Reynolds' "deep religious beliefs" are going to cause her to come to blows with Peter. In the book itself, her religious beliefs are mentioned twice: When she asks Peter not to take the Lord's name in vain and when, at the end, she's mentioned to have found a local evangelical family to spend Christmas with. Neither has any impact at all on the plot.
      • The Del Rey edition is even worse, calling her "a born-again Christian who regards all magic as the work of Satan", although there is zero evidence of this in the book.
    • The Del Rey covers not only turn self-confessed nerd Peter into a Scary Black Man silhouette, but it also has him wielding a pistol: something he, like most British police, isn't authorized to do except under special circumstances.
  • Creator Provincialism: Ben Aaronovitch has admitted on his site and in his Author descriptions to absolutely adoring London and not wishing to live anywhere else. Peter is very much in the same mold, some people do try to call him out on this however.
  • Critical Staffing Shortage: The Folly, the police division supposed to be responsible for all of Britain's magical law enforcement, is down from its full divisional strength to a single officer, raising to three and back down to two again over the course of the series. This has left London (and presumably the rest of the UK) at serious risk, due to infighting by the various Anthropomorphic Personifications, dangerous magical criminals like the Faceless Man, and the Masquerade starting to fall apart, as they are unable to even respond properly much less anticipate magical crimes.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: In the fourth book, a man is burned alive from the inside out. His bones end up catching fire, his eyes are boiled, his mouth his charred, but his clothes are unharmed.
  • Cute Monster Girl: Molly the Maid. Mostly human looking, but has a snake like tongue, a smile that is just a bit too wide and too full of razor sharp teeth.
  • Death Glare: Given by Tyburn after Peter blows up her fountain, trashing her garden.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Something of a calling card for the Faceless Man. He leaves sarcastic messages on magical landmines in Elvish and, in Foxglove Summer, leaves a literal card for Nightingale - after he tracks down the location of a phone call, all that's in the house is a "With Sympathy" greeting card with "NICE TRY" written inside it.
  • Debate and Switch: At the end of Soho Simone and her sisters are revealed to be inadvertently feeding off of other people's lifeforce to stay alive. Nightingale is for summary execution as per historical treatment of similar creatures. Peter says they have rights under law, Nightingale counters that it would blow the Masquerade wide open to go through the courts, and it looks like they have a major dilemma on their hands. Then the sisters commit suicide because they cannot live with the revelation solving everything neatly.
  • Demonic Possession: The MO of the Big Bad from book one.
  • Desk Jockey: Peter's fate before meeting Nightingale was to be assigned to one of the Metropolitan Police's paperwork divisions.
  • Destructive Saviour: Peter. This runs from the mundane, like hijacking an ambulance and causing twenty thousand pounds worth of damage, to the magical, where Nightingale jokes that Peter's signare is the tendency to make things explode.
  • Discreet Dining Disposal: Toby's tendency to waddle can be traced to this trope, as Molly tends to cook much too much and has Lethal Chef tendencies.
  • Domestic Abuse: The Ghost Magistrate is fine with this, all women are shrews after all.
  • Do Not Call Me Paul: Tyburn? That is Lady Ty to you, peasant.
  • Don't Be Ridiculous: Agent Reynolds' reaction to Peter and Kumar discussing whether their current experience is more like being a bobsleigh team or the luge.
  • Downer Ending: In Broken Homes, Lesley betrays Peter in order to join the Faceless Man, so that her face can be restored.
  • Eagleland Osmosis: In Foxglove Summer, Peter is irritated when Beverly calls the police "the feds". ("The filth" is at least an ENGLISH epiphet.)
  • Easter Egg: The covers of the UK editions are loaded with them with information about London, and background information on the plot, hidden in the word scrawl.
  • Elaborate Underground Base: In book three they discover the Faceless Man was apparently planning one of these under the cover of Subway works, but they managed to discover it before he'd done more than just construct the shaft (although Peter reveals his architect training by pointing out where he was planning on hanging the floors and utilities).
  • Enfant Terrible: The changeling who shows up partway through Foxglove Summer is a mind-controlling brat. She is subsequently revealed to be the real Nicole Lacey, who was taken as a child and replaced by a changeling - who also happens to be her biological half-sister - and has now been returned, not much the better for having been raised by The Fair Folk. Her mother drags her back into the woods to get the changeling back in return.
  • Even the Rats Won't Touch It: Toby whimpers and hides when offered some of Molly's eggs Benedict.
  • Everybody Lives: Aside from one unfortunate sheep, there are no deaths in Foxglove Summer, although a few people wind up in hospital and one of the unicorns may need a faerie vet's attention.
  • Evil Has a Bad Sense of Humor: The Faceless Man. In book two, he leaves the message "IF YOU CAN READ THIS YOU ARE A NERD AND ALSO PROBABLY DEAD" written on a demon trap in Tolkien's elvish script. In book four, he leaves a note on a time bomb warning that it is booby-trapped and should not be tampered with "as being blown up often offends".
  • Face-Heel Turn: At the end of book four it is revealed that Lesley is working for the Faceless Man when she tasers Peter to help him get away. Disturbingly we have no idea for how long she has been a double agent, but the victim at the start of the book was killed as part of the Faceless Man's research into magically creating a new face for her.
  • Fair Cop: Lesley May in the first book, prior to her injuries.
  • Fertile Feet: In an earthy variation, wildflowers blossom overnight at the spot where Father Thames won the literal pissing contest in book four.
  • Fictional Sport: Nightingale's old schoolmates played an impello-based version of dodge ball that they called Indoor Tennis. Peter and Lesley, naturally, call it Pocket Quidditch.
  • First-Person Smartass: Peter is the narrator of the books and is a self-admitted smart-ass, although he is slowly learning how not to be.
  • Food Chains: One constant rule of this Verse is that eating or drinking what another magic-touched being provides obliges you to obey them, unless they absolve you of that obligation beforehand. Granting that exemption to guests is a key part of demimonde etiquette, and Peter is nearly ensnared by Lady Ty in this fashion.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • In book three Peter catches a glimpse of Lesley taking off her mask and showing Woodville-Gentle her face. At the time Peter assumes it was just as part of a distraction, but in book four Lesley shows that she has switched sides on the promise of Woodville-Gentle's student "The Faceless Man" fixing the magical damage. That scene was clearly an early consult.
    • Book four also foreshadows this when both Peter and Lesley are taken prisoner and the mooks are getting ready to kill them; Lesley uncharacteristicly joins Peter in begging the guys to call their boss, with her voice noted as having urgency in it. Its clear she has already switched sides at that point, or at least has been given the offer.
    • In a subtle example from book one, Leslie doesn't have to ask whom the 18th century actor Mr. Punch has a grudge against was, even though she's already shown herself to be quite uninterested in London's cultural history. This is an early sign that she's possessed by Punch himself.
  • Fun with Acronyms: The mnemonic for first-officer-on-the-scene-of-a-disaster is SAD CHALETS. "Survey; oh god there's a bomb. Assess; oh god there's more than one bomb and everyone in the tower will die. Disseminate; oh god there's a bomb, we're going to die, send help."
  • Gas Leak Cover Up: D.C.I. Nightingale has an arrangement with the Metropolitan Fire Brigade for when he has to Kill It with Fire. The fire brigade will have appliances on hand to make sure the blaze does not get out of hand, and the fire inspector will write the fire off as the result of 'faulty wiring' or something similar.
  • Gender Reveal: Ash Thames discovers during sex the woman he picked up in a bar in Soho is a very convincing crossdresser. It turns out not to bother him, he was having too much fun to care. Peter is more than a little discomforted by the revelation though.
  • Gentleman and a Scholar: DCI Nightingale, right down to the silver tipped cane and tendency to correct other people's grammar.
  • Ghostapo: The Ettersberg research facility the Nazis were running in WW2 involved some very horrific abuses of magic, and also human and non-human people.
    • The Real Life 'Werwölfe' where fanatic young Nazis in cities just after, or about to, surrender. They went through the streets and hanged everyone who put up a white flag. In the books, they where specialists at finding practioners.
  • Girl of the Week: Beverly in book one, and Simone in book two. Simone is more of a Temporary Love Interest though, while Beverly returns as a more serious love interest later in the series.
  • Grammar Nazi: Nightingale corrects Peter's grammar from time to time, and gives no credence to Peter's counterargument that colloquial speech is the standard style nowadays.
  • Grand Theft Me: Ghost Henry Pyke by way of Mr. Punch does this to Lesley for most of the first book.
  • Gratuitous German:
    • Used by Peter to a German family who get trapped in the middle of the riot.
    • More prominent in Broken Homes, dealing with the Old German Magicians at Weimar. (Alas, the German is severely broken too.)
  • The Great British Copper Capture: In book four we essentially get the magic version when Peter and Lesley are taken prisoner by the Faceless man's mooks and Dragon.
  • Half-Human Hybrid:
    • Created by Black Mag....Ethically Challenged Magic in Soho.
    • Zachary from Whispers is part fae (although Peter speculates that the fae are in any case an offshoot of humanity whose ancestors were permanently altered by magic).
    • In Foxglove, Derek is the changeling's biological father, who'd presumably had a liaison with one of The Fair Folk.
  • Hidden Depths: Nightingale may look like an Officer and a Gentleman, but he once personally destroyed two Tiger tanks by himself (to put it in perspective, Peter has difficulty in burning through a paper target).
  • Horror Hunger: Implied to be why Molly nearly eats Peter after the hemomancy rite in the first book.
  • Human Subspecies:
    • Peter speculates that the Quiet People are this in Whispers Underground, although the question isn't really settled.
    • By the time Foxglove Summer rolls around, Peter has begun to formulate some theories about how magic may be causing some new human speciation.
  • I'd Tell You, but Then I'd Have to Kill You: Peter tells another policeman who asks the truth about the supernatural: "I could tell you, but then you'd have to section me."
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: The chapters of Moon Over Soho all have the titles of classic jazz songs.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Trope name-checked by Peter in book three to describe how an automatic paintballing machine in the shooting gallery fires erratically.
  • Improvised Weapon: The murder victim from Whispers was stabbed to death with a shard of broken plate.
  • Infant Immortality:
    • Nightmarishly averted within the first few chapters of the first book, just to give the reader an impression of the kind of ride they're in for.
    • Discussed in Foxglove Summer, where it is considered a sad fact, that with disappeared children, few people expect to find them alive after a day or so.
  • Insistent Terminology:
    • When Peter and Nightingale discover they're up against a black magician in book two, Peter points out that the term "black magician" is problematic, particularly since Peter is of African descent and is thus, in a sense, himself a black magician. Thereafter he uses variations on "ethically challenged magical practitioner" instead.
    • Zack gets offended when Peter calls him a goblin, grumbling that people who don't know what it means shouldn't call other people that.
  • Instant Sedation: Peter wants something that does this, Dr Walid explains there is no such thing (although he can come up with something that will work reasonably quickly at the expense of common sense and basic safety). That would be etorphine hydrochloride — an opioid derivative a thousand times stronger than morphine, commonly used as a general anesthetic for large animals and perfectly capable of causing fatal respiratory arrest in very small doses. Dr Walid helpfully supplies Peter with auto-injectors of Narcan (an opioid antidote) as well as a card to give paramedics in case of accidental exposurenote . Treated quite sensibly as the officer he's forced to stick with it—who is considerably heavier than the target he expected—still ends up on sick leave for six months afterwards.
  • Interrupted Suicide: Mama Thames tells Peter that her decision to jump into the river was repeatedly delayed by how unsuitable she found one bridge after another. Also, the would-be "one-under" who kept having to wait because he wouldn't jump in front of a Tube train if any kids were around to see.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Peter, in the first couple of books, is rather a shallow jerkass, albeit one who wants to do the right thing. By later books he has begun to start taking things rather more seriously and is somewhat more insightful.
  • Jurisdiction Friction: Averted. Peter notes that unlike in the media, the police services all work fairly well together and do not get possessive over high-profile cases. If anything, the opposite is true, police departments will actively work to transfer responsibility to other departments because of the massive cost and time involved in murder investigations so that it doesn't come out of their budget.

    Tropes L to P 
  • Land of Faerie: Exists in the "Alternate Dimension" form. Foxglove Summer deals with the problem of Fairyland getting a little too close to our own dimension. At the end of the book Peter almost gets stuck there, having traded himself in exchange for a hostage.
  • Last of His Kind/There Is Another: Nightingale thought he was the last active master Newtonian practitioner in the UK. Then Peter ran into the Faceless Man...
  • Late-Arrival Spoiler/First Episode Spoiler: It is increasingly hard to talk about PC Lesley May after the end of book one without giving away the conclusion.
  • Lesbian Cop: Detective Sergeant Stephanopoulis, described as a "terrifying lesbian". She's also an Old-Fashioned Copper and the only joke ever told about her sexuality is "do you know what happened to the last sod who made fun of Stephanopoulis? Neither does anyone else, they haven't found the body yet".
  • Lethal Chef:
    • Molly acquires more than a bit of this trope in book two. As long as she is cooking traditional Victorian style food she is top notch, but when she tries branching out into anything else it all goes a bit wrong.
    • Peter's mother also qualifies on the grounds that she believes that anything that is not on the verge of spontaneous combustion does not have enough chili peppers in it.
  • Living Memory: Ghosts are apparently memories and personalities imprinted on the residual vestigia of a location, rather than the actual disembodied souls of dead people. They gradually fade over time as the vestigia dissipate, suffering Ghost Amnesia and eventually disappearing entirely.
  • Losing Your Head:
    • The unfortunate Larry The Lark, head chopped off, served up on a silver platter at a banquet in the sixties...and still kept alive by ethically challenged magic until the conclusion of Soho. Just to add to the Humiliation Conga it was dressed up in a turban and used as a fortune telling machine.
    • Victims of Mr Punch tend to suffer this as well, though it's a fifty/fifty chance whether you'll have your head whacked off by blunt trauma or blown apart by magic.
  • Mad Libs Catch Phrase: Peter, narrating, will occasionally come out with a surprisingly erudite bit of historical knowledge, always followed by "I knew all this because..." ...it was on a plaque he read once to relieve the boredom of guard duty. Or ...Nightingale makes him read Tacitus in the original Latin as part of his magic homework. Or it came up while he was watching Doctor Who or playing D&D as a kid.
  • The Magic Goes Away: Subverted in-universe: Nightingale and his surviving colleagues thought magic would fade away in the wake of Ettersberg, and it did weaken for a couple of decades. Then it started coming back and seems to be rising faster as of book four.
  • Magic A Is Magic A: Described in minute detail.
  • The Magic Comes Back:
    • Magic was believed to be declining after the events of World War II. Apparently it's been making a comeback since the 1960's.
    • In Broken Homes it seems this process is accelerating. Particularly given the conclusion where a massive magical collection device is discharged over London.
  • Magic Staff:
    • Nightingale's cane is one.
    • The fourth book reveals that they used to be forged by an order called the Sons of Weyland, but the order no longer exists and Nightingale may be the only one who knows how to make one now — in England at least. They can be used to store up magical energy that a magician can call upon when he needs it.
    • In Foxglove Summer, the Sons of Weyland get namedropped by a retired wizard living in the country, and he bequeaths to Peter his old staffs.
  • Magic Versus Science: Magic is an EMP type here. Notably it has the same effect on human brains as it does on technology, just electrical technology is more sensitive and will short out before your brain does. The novels as a whole avert this though. The organised study of magic originates in the setting with Isaac Newton, and Peter frequently attempts to fit magic into an empiricist, rationalist framework. Magic shorts out modern technology not because magic is inimical to modern science but because, it is speculated, modern culture has made technology quasi-magical in itself.
    • In Foxglove Summer, Peter figures out a way to utilise it. Using cheap microprocessors and LED lights, he is able to craft a makeshift magic detector — when the light goes out, magic is present.
  • Making a Splash: The Rivers can control their respective watercourses' flow, both consciously and as an unconscious effect of their emotional state. Beverley Brook calls up a flood to extinguish the Covent Garden fires. Nicky is implied to have drowned one of book four's tree-cutters on dry land, to avenge Sky.
  • Male Gaze: The books are from Peter's perspective so it's Justified.
  • Market-Based Title: Book one was re-titled as "Midnight Riot" for the US release, ostensibly because American readers need something more dynamic to catch their interest.
  • Masquerade: As per standard in this genre, created more through public indifference and traditional discretion. As of book four it is becoming increasingly shaky though, and may not be sustainable for much longer.
  • Mega Neko: The Ethically Challenged Magician creates real catgirls and catboys.
  • Meido: Molly, always wears the full Edwardian-Victorian maid outfit, and to quote the narration in Moon Over Soho.
    Molly glided into the room like the winner of the all-London Gothic Lolita competition.
  • The Men in Black: Technically The Folly should be this, but Nightingale hasn't been up to much for years, Peter isn't too keen on the idea of institutional secrecy, and Lesley was a bit too brash and indiscreet in her methods.
  • Merlin Sickness: Nightingale was born in 1900, aged normally until the 1970s, and then for reasons that are still not clear began getting younger again. The effect is only on his biological age, however; his memory works normally. The fourth book reveals that he's not the only one this happened to.
  • Mistaken for Gay: When Peter meets Nightingale for the first time, he thinks that all the man is lacking to complete the image is a "slightly ethnic younger boyfriend".
  • Mugging the Monster:
    • Sending a skinhead around to collect a debt might have worked if the person he went to intimidate wasn't a goddess capable of mind controlling him.
    • And then there was the Asshole Victim who tried to rape the Pale Lady, only to be introduced to the Vagina Dentata trope...
  • Mundane Solution: Villain example when Punch decides to just shoot Nightingale.
  • My Grandson Myself: Mention is made in Moon Over Soho of Nightingale having pretended to be his own son in order to attend an old colleague's funeral without raising awkward questions. Mostly, though, he gets by by keeping to himself and not having protracted interactions with anybody who isn't part of the Masquerade.
  • Naked People Trapped Outside: One of the down sides of Peter having sex with Beverly while floating on/in a river is that it's a long walk back upstream to where they left their clothes.
  • National Weapon: Peter thinks the pickax handle should be enshrined as the traditional "cultural weapon" of the London police.
  • Nature Spirit: Given the nature of the series it was inevitable that an actual dryad would show up in the fourth book albeit as the spirit of a plane tree.
  • Nerds Speak Klingon: Peter puts a copy of a Tolkien-Elvish phrase he'd found on a magical booby-trap on the Internet and asks for a translation. Lord of the Rings fans quickly come up with the English version, which says that whoever is reading it is both a nerd and lucky not to have been killed.
  • No Name Given: Mama Thames claims she no longer remembers her name as a mortal woman.
  • No Sell: Repeated exposure to various forms of mental influence has given Peter enough resistance to ignore it. At least from a less experienced user.
  • Noodle Implements/Noodle Incident:
    • Whatever happened to Peter and Leslie during their probationary training, that involved "the dwarf, the showgirl, and the fur coat".
    • "The Home Crowd Advantage", after mentioning the events of previous books as reasons why Peter is not part of the police presence at the 2012 Olympics, adds "the thing that happened in Kew that was totally not my fault."
  • The Obi-Wan: Nightingale fulfils this role to Peter. Although he verges on Obsolete Mentor a couple of times, especially when it comes to modern police methods, and this is a particular bone of contention at the end of Soho when the issue of Inhumanable Alien Rights and due process through the courts, versus just killing sentient non-human possible criminals comes up.
  • Obliviously Evil: The ghost of Henry Pyke doesn't seem aware that the people harmed by Mr. Punch's antics are being hurt for real, not just pretend.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: Vampires suck the life force out of their surroundings with their mere presence. They do also hunger for blood, but nobody knows why. Vampirism is some form of infection — once one person in a family becomes a vampire, everyone else quickly follows — but the vector for the transformation is unknown. On the whole, there is a lot that is not known about vampires, because they're so dangerous that whenever one is encountered a sensible person will Kill It with Fire as soon as possible, and not mess about trying study it. Apparently there was some research by the Ghostapo into using vampires as living weapons in World War II, but no one wants to talk about it as it apparently went rather wrong.
  • Perception Filter: Possessed by the Big Bad of Soho.
  • Personal Raincloud: Nightingale creates one that follows Peter around for half an hour, after Peter complains about only being taught basic spells and never getting to see any really elaborate magic.
  • Police Brutality: A mild example, but Lesley has a distinct preference for threats of violence and can be counted on to suggest the most direct and violent course of action in any situation.
    • Peter jokes about this trope from time to time, as when he describes one of the police-baton moves he's been trained in as the sneaky one that won't look so obvious on the news footage.
  • Police Procedural: The books are as much procedural as they are Urban Fantasy. Only the coppers have to not only apply the law of the land to the non-human community same as they would with regular humans, but also maintain the Masquerade too.
  • Pop-Cultured Badass:
    • Peter makes a lot of Genre Savvy references to movies, Doctor Who, and various fictional wizards. His associates aren't bad at these, either.
    • Even the Faceless Man drops a Tolkien reference in the inscription on a demon trap.
  • Pop-Cultural Osmosis Failure:
    • Nightingale doesn't really get Peter's Harry Potter namedrops.
    • Invoked and averted when Peter thinks he's going to have to explain to Stephanopolos what Unseen University is, but she tells him her partner is a Terry Pratchett fan.
  • Portent of Doom: Foxglove Summer sees Lesley make contact with Peter again. Initially, it's just through text messages but, towards the end of the book, she calls. They have a brief conversation in which Lesley tells Peter they've got about a year until things really kick off, but gives absolutely no detail on what said things actually are.
  • Post-Modern Magik: While magic itself will to destroy any technology equipped with a microprocessor, it's not uncommon to find supernatural beings who have embraced the modern world. So far we've seen:
    • Local goddesses with mobile phones, university degrees, and Wikipedia pages.
    • The equivalent of dwarves who carry Sten guns, wear sunglasses and donkey jackets, get their groceries from Tesco, and are fond of the music of Queen.
    • Technologically savvy magicians using the internet to translate parts of grimoires.
    • Certain modern plastics hold magic residue nearly as well as stone does.
    • Cat girls created with magic and possibly with the assistance of modern science as well.
    • One of Nightingale's school chums speculated about whether a Genius Loci could emerge within the subway system or telephone network.
    • The fourth book introduces a council estate that contained a device for capturing magical energy and also had a dryad living in its copse of plane trees.
  • Powder Keg Crowd: The patrons at the Royal Opera. Mr. Punch, mind-controlling several police officers via the ghost of Henry Pyke, incites the crowd to riot and burn down most of Covent Garden.
  • Powered by a Forsaken Child: The Demon Traps. Essentially magical landmines powered by a tormented ghost.
  • Prevent the War: In the first book, the B-Plot is that the two Anthropomorphic Personifications of the Thames, and their families, are gearing up to go toe-to-toe with each other (with the implication that it will be very unpleasant for everyone living in the Thames valley, estuary, and catchment area) and our heroes need to find a way to force a truce.
  • Psychic-Assisted Suicide:
    • The Big Bad of Soho tries this on Peter to force him to jump off a roof.
    • Tyburn tried something similar in book one to try and force Peter to drink from her fountain to put himself in thrall to her. The practice he got in then helped him resist the bad guy of Soho.
    • It pops up again in the fourth book where a man is apparently made to jump in front of a train.
  • Put on a Bus: Beverley Brook at the end of book one. Comes back in book four.

    Tropes Q to Z 
  • Railroad Tracks of Doom: The ghost of a teen who got hit while tagging the inside of a rail tunnel appears briefly in Whispers.
  • A Rare Sentence: In Foxglove Summer, Dominic comments that he can't believe he's saying things like, "Do we actually have an operational plan for dealing with the unicorns?"
  • Readers Are Genuises: The books are best read with an A-to-Z of London to one side, and a copy of Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable to the other. There is a lot of detail and you will need to keep up.
  • Remember When You Blew Up a Sun?: Thomas "Tiger Tank" Nightingale once took down two of the aforementioned vehicles during the second World War. Considering that Peter has trouble aiming properly at paper targets, and can at most burn through a door, the tank thing is pretty damned impressive, and Peter makes sure that the reader knows it.
  • Rooftop Confrontation: The climax of Soho and the climax of Broken Homes both take place on different rooftops.
  • Running Gag: People whom Nightingale or Peter are telling about the supernatural for the first time promptly ask if aliens are real, too. (When Peter himself asks his new boss this, Nightingale says: "Not yet".)
  • Sarcastic Confession: In book three Lesley sarcastically says to create a distraction for Peter to snoop around she'll take her mask off. When Peter catches a glimpse while snooping, she actually has.
  • Savvy Guy, Energetic Girl: Peter is generally a quiet, thoughtful type who takes a scientific approach to magic and a community-based approach to police work. Lesley is much more gung-ho.
  • Scars Are Forever:
    • Lesley's horrific injuries at the end of Rivers do not get any better in Soho. As of book 3, she's getting better at letting people see her without her mask, but things have not improved much. In Moon Over Soho Nightingale is still suffering from his wounds from the previous book too, keeping him firmly in the background and as support.
    • Oberon - despite being some sort of Fae - still bears the scars from his days as a slave a few hundred years ago.
    • In book four, Lesley is revealed to have become The Mole for the Faceless Man, and it's implied that she expects him to subvert this trope and restore her face.
  • Scenery Porn: Aaronovitch's prose is detailed enough to make this a literary example. Peter trained as an architect (but his draughtsmanship was too poor to cut it) thus why Peter tends to go on about buildings so much.
  • Shooting Gallery: The Folly has one for trainee wizards to practice their fireball skills in. As a mark of just how long it has been since it was put to use, all the target silhouettes are still shaped like WW 2 Nazis.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Sinister Surveillance: Averted when Peter points out (Truth in Television) that the supposedly ubiquitous "surveillance cameras" are simply all the security cameras there are, and not linked to some Big Brother network.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Waaaaay down the cynical side.
  • Spell My Name with a "The": Much of the magical community does this with Nightingale, always referring to him as "The Nightingale". As of book five, some have taken to calling Peter himself "the starling", albeit without (yet) the prestige of a capital letter.
  • Spot of Tea: In book three Peter's refusal of tea when he meets The Quiet Folk sparks widespread muttering and consternation.
  • So Beautiful, It's a Curse: FBI agent Kimberly Reynolds dyes her hair a plain brown to avert this trope, as nobody took her seriously as a good-looking redhead.
  • Social Engineering: Peter's training has equipped him with loads of little tricks used by Real Life police officers, such as asking an unidentified person in a car for their driver's license: if you ask their name they might lie and have a right not to answer, but if they think it's a traffic issue they'll hand their card over without complaint.
  • Sophisticated as Hell: Used a lot, and probably inevitable in a series that combines streetwise cop-jargon with Latin-based thaumaturgical terminology in the same dialogue.
  • The Starscream: Tyburn is implied to be one of these to Mama Thames in Rivers and in Soho Nightingale confirms her status, and implies that when the inevitable clash between the two comes that it might be a good time to take a holiday on another continent.
  • Stiff Upper Lip:
    • Peter almost never narrates his own emotions, only his logical thinking and actions, and it's implied throughout the series (and spelled outright in Foxglove Summer) that this narrative choice represents how he (In-Universe) represses or omits a lot of his emotional response.
    • Nightingale shows his own, more classical, take on this trope from Peter's POV.
  • Strawman Fallacy: In Soho when confronted with the issue of Inhumanable Alien Rights, Nightingale tries to make Peter concede that he is only arguing for rights for non-humans because the perps are attractive. Peter spots the strawman there, and says that he might not have thought to argue if they were grotesque but that just makes him "shallow, not wrong".
  • Stringy-Haired Ghost Girl: Molly is explicitly described as looking like one when Peter first sees her.
  • Sufficiently Analyzed Magic: Started by Newton, and Peter adds his own contributions to this when he works out why Magic and Electronic Technology are incompatible. Foxglove Summer reveals that David Mellenby had found a way to close the gap between Newtonian magic and quantum theory.
    • Practically lampshaded in a summary of various eras' prevailing theories about ghosts, as each one (Peter's own included) very closely mimics whatever the cutting-edge scientific paradigm of its day happened to be.
  • Suicide by Cop: The antagonist in "Home Crowd Advantage" turns out to be trying to provoke Nightingale into a Wizard Duel so he can commit the magical equivalent of suicide by cop.
  • Supernatural Martial Arts: In Broken Homes, Peter is practicing his formae and speculates that it might be possible to create one with the shape of the body, rather than using words to form a shape in your mind, and maybe that's where the idea of martial artists flying and throwing energy bolts comes from.
  • Supernatural Sensitivity: A magician can sense magic as a flash of sensations. The Rivers are able to literally smell when someone is a magician, even if the magician in question isn't using magic at the time. Toby the dog is also able to sense magic. The Night Witch in the fourth book says that the Germans had units of men - called werewolves - able to "sniff out" magicians. These men may or may not have been actual lycanthropes.
  • Tactful Translation: Madame Teng's translator in book 3 engages in a bit of this when Teng delivers a tirade about the position of Mainland China vis-a-vis Taiwan. He basically just says that its important to her that Peter knows she dislikes modern mainland China and, while Peter doesn't need to know the exact translation, can he just look interested please.
  • Team Pet: Toby the Dog.
  • Technologically Blind Elders: Nightingale knows little to nothing about the modern, computerized systems used by the police.
  • There Was a Door: Played with by Nightingale in book four, when he blows a huge hole in the front of a building, only to slip in the back door while his opponent is taking aim at the resulting dust-cloud.
  • These Are Things Man Was Not Meant to Know: While not exactly, filled with the standard Tomes of Eldritch Lore, the Black Library contains the Nazis' documentation of their human — and fae — experimentation and their attempts at using David Mellenby's theories to unite magic with quantum theory. Mellenby and other British magicians killed themselves after surviving the battle of Ettersberg and the subsequent retreat back to the Allied front line.
  • This Is Reality:
    "So magic is real," I said. "Which makes you a... what?"
    "A wizard."
    "Like Harry Potter?"
    Nightingale sighed. "No," he said. "Not like Harry Potter."
    "In what way?"
    "I'm not a fictional character," said Nightingale.
  • Tomato in the Mirror: In Moon Over Soho, Simone and her sisters turn out to be the suspected culprits that Peter and Nightingale were hunting, but with all of their own memories faded, they all had no idea.
  • Trigger Happy: As per American law enforcement standard, Special Agent Reynolds is very quick to return fire when Peter gets shot at in Whispers Under Ground. Much to Peter's dismay.
  • Unbelievable Source Plot: Rivers of London starts with Police Constable Peter Grant interviewing a witness to a murder, who happens to be a ghost. This testimony, however, will hardly stand in a courtroom, and Grant has to use it as a springboard to find evidence that will. Similar problems with magical evidence come up elsewhere in the series, but don't drive as much of the plot.
  • Unicorn: Perhaps in deference to their origin, the unicorns in Foxglove Summer are ferocious. They're also carnivorous, as large as draft horses, and serve the Faerie Queen.
  • The Unmasqued World: Hinted at — it hasn't happened yet, but by the end of the third book, magic is crawling out of the woodwork at an accelerating pace and Peter Grant has reluctantly come to agree with Lady Tyburn that the Masquerade can't last much longer. (It's not so much the conclusion itself that he's reluctant about, he just hates the idea of Lady Ty being right about anything.)
  • Unusually Uninteresting Name: The Folly is officially merely a part of The Economic and Specialist Crime Team.
  • Urban Fantasy: It's about a 21st century cop who uses magic.
  • Useless Security Camera:
    • In Rivers, the first murder is caught on CCTV, but a key event in the lead-up to it, vital to figuring out who did it and why, occurs just outside the camera's field of view.
    • Justified in cases when magic fries monitoring devices.
    • The fact that London's ubiquitous cameras didn't record the victim's arrival at the site of his death becomes an early clue that there are hidden passages beneath the city in Whispers.
  • Useless Useful Spell: Peter comes up with one of his own by combining aer (gives you "grip" on otherwise thin air) and congelato (causes liquids and gases to solidify). Both spells are fairly useless separate, but together make a handy instant Deflector Shield.
  • Vagina Dentata: Possessed by the Pale Lady, whose first victim is found at the end of book one, and who plays a signficant part in book two.
  • Villainy-Free Villain: Tyburn. She's a Rich Bitch Jerk Ass who really takes far too much pleasure one-upping Peter and while she might be a bit of a Starscream to her mother, her real intentions are to modernise how London (and the rest of the UK) deals with magic, get everything systematised and above board, and do away with the tangles of "arrangements" and "agreements" that have accumulated over the years. Something that Peter himself is pretty keen on, she just goes about it all in a really arsehole-ish ways.
  • Vomiting Cop: Subverted in-Verse in book four, when Peter hurriedly steps away from a shotgun-blasted corpse with his hand over his mouth. The other police assume it's this trope, but he's actually suppressing giggles because the body's condition tempted him to make a tasteless crack about zombies.
  • Wasn't That Fun?: The youngest child of the German tourist family wants to get washed out of the burning store by Beverly's called-up waters again.
  • Watch the Paint Job: That detailed description of how cool Beverly's new car is? You knew it would end up in this trope. Rioters 1: Car 0.
  • Weasel Co-Worker: Investigations have to be paid for. Which means that police try to dump them on other departments.
  • What an Idiot: An In-Universe example when Dr Walid cooks up the fast acting sedative he also gives Peter a card for paramedics to read in case he stabs himself:
    "Warning: I have been stupid enough to stab myself with etorphine hydrochloride."
  • Wizarding School: Casterbrook — the school where Nightingale learned magic — used to be one of these. After WWII there just weren't enough people left for it to be useful though.
  • Wizards Live Longer: Nightingale certainly does, but he seems to be something of an exception.
  • Wham Line: The very last line of Soho. "Fuck me, you can do magic."
  • Whole Plot Reference: The first book, of Punch And Judy. It's both deliberately invoked and extremely plot-relevant.
  • "World of Cardboard" Speech: Given by Peter to Tyburn in response to her "Reason You Suck" Speech, utterly owning her in front of her entire family including Mama Thames herself.
  • The X of Y: Book one, in the UK at least, Rivers of London.
  • Yellow Peril: One of Nightingale's predecessors at the Folly led the bust of a reputed Chinese sorcerer and white slaver in 1911. A subversion, as it turned out the sorcerer was a Canadian white guy operating under a Chinese name.
  • You Do NOT Want To Know: Whatever it was Nightingale found in that room during Soho, Peter decides he really doesn't. All we know is that the people who exhume mass graves in Rwanda and Kosovo need to be called to process it and some of what they find is not dead (yet).
  • Your Head Asplode: Happens to one of the Hare Krishnas.

Alternative Title(s):

Rivers Of London, Midnight Riot, Moon Over Soho, Whispers Under Ground, Broken Homes