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The Folly

    Peter Grant 

Constable Peter Grant

A young police constable saved from a career in paperwork after being found seeking a ghostly witness to a crime by the last government-sanctioned wizard in London, DCI Thomas Nightingale. Shortly after, he becomes Nightingale's apprentice in magic as well as his junior officer in investigating magical crime.


  • The Apprentice: To Nightingale.
  • Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: The first novel alone details that Peter exhibits more than enough attention issues in his daily life to suggest some kind of Ambiguous Disorder:
    • On his first day working with Peter, Nightingale asks why he didn't complete a science degree despite his science background, to which Peter answers that he was distracted, so his grades weren't good enough to get into the classes he needed (Nightingale asks if he had been distracted by some activity, such as starting a band; Peter denies this).
    • While learning magic, Peter is often impatient with the repetitive lessons and tends to seek new stimuli for himself, such as the experiments he designs with what he's already learned, which leads to him mastering the actual lessons comparatively slower than would be expected. Peter's inability to focus on a subject he privately professes to love due to the long and repetitive nature of the actual activity involved is very in line with various attention disorders.
    • Lesley at one point claims the biggest flaw keeping Peter from being a good copper is in fact his lack of focus; she reminds Peter of an incident in Trafalgar Square at New Years, in which she had to fight multiple drunks while Peter didn't notice because he was reading an information panel on the bum of a lion statue. As she puts it, "it's like you see things that aren't there."
    • Despite these attention issues, Peter focuses bullheadedly over things that do manage to catch his interest, something that again falls in line with attention disorders such as ADD and ADHD.
      • Peter's attention issues appear to occasionally act as a Handy Shortcoming, because Peter's tendency to lack focus in some instances and hyperfocus in others means that he's very naturally talented at sensing magic even when compared to other apprentices (though it also means he's slower at actually learning it). This focus on everything and nothing is also probably why he tends to notice details about objects and locations that others don't and is thus usually quicker to notice when things are out of place, which, despite occasional mockery or bemusement from those around him, has more than once led to him finding or noticing things other investigators have not. Also, despite being slower than the very focused Lesley at learning magic, his experimental approach makes him consistently more versatile and creative with the spells he's mastered. In the climactic battle in Moon Over Soho, for example, Peter fights the Faceless Man with Peter's own variations on the simple spells Nightingale's taught him — variations whose creation Nightingale had dismissed as Peter messing around. This versatility enables Peter, who'd only been learning magic for seven months, to hold his own against a master wizard long enough for The Cavalry to arrive.
  • Britain is Only London: Peter believes London is the only place worth being. 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".
  • Chekhov's Skill: Peter's background as a wannabe architect comes in handy when he spots historically-inconsistent brickwork in The Farthest Station. Having been drafted by his mum to help with cleaning jobs as a child also lets him assess at a glance how recently and proficiently various crime scenes were cleaned.
  • City Mouse: As mentioned above, Peter loves living in London. When he goes to the countryside in Foxglove Summer, he definitely finds countryside living not what he's used to.
  • Cool Car: Peter's Ford Focus ST, a/k/a "The Asbo". note  It finally meets its maker in The Hanging Tree, but is quickly replaced by a very nice Ferrari from the Faceless Man's garage, which Nightingale confiscated to "inspect it for magic".
  • Deadpan Snarker: Mostly during the narration, but more often than not his thoughts slip through in his dialogue as well.
  • Desk Jockey: Peter was about to be assigned to a career with the Met's Desk Jockey unit before meeting Nightingale.
  • Destructive Savior: He's accused of being this, with much property destruction happening during his cases. Though, to be fair, he rarely is the one doing the destroying.
  • Guile Hero: Father Thames (and other demi-monde) has called him "a cunning man" numerous times, and he's quite skilled at the type of Social Engineering practiced by the police.
  • Hidden Depths: Despite not having the highest education and initially not impressing his superiors with his police skills, he still has a good bit of knowledge about architecture, which proves to be useful for ruining the Faceless Man's plans for Skygarden Tower. He also has a decent knowledge of London's history, ancient history, jazz, and has started to do serious work of scientifically testing magic.
  • Immune to Mind Control: Peter Grant has built up a near-total resistance to glamours, due to literally every supernatural creature he meets trying to magically compel him in some fashion or another.
  • 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.
  • Pop-Cultured Badass: Peter makes a lot of Genre Savvy references to movies, Doctor Who, and various fictional wizards.
  • Rank Up: Peter becomes a Detective Constable in Detective Stories.
  • Reality Ensues: As Nightingale had functionally checked out of the magical community and only dealt with magical crime when it managed to come find him prior to the series, new apprentice Peter's dedication to active enforcement means that he's the one who ends up shouldering the consequences of a magical education that hasn't been updated since the 1940s, a practically defunct magical law enforcement with a history that disinclines the magical community from respecting or trusting them, and decades of unchecked magical crime. It also means that despite everyone's attempts to avoid it (due to his personal entanglements with the case), Peter inevitably gets dragged into the hunt for Lesley May — because he and Nightingale are the only ones in the Met capable of dealing with her and the Faceless Man. The personal toll this takes on Peter is massive.
  • Science Hero: He approaches his magic studies like a science — which, in many ways, it is — and manages to discover new things even during his apprenticeship.
  • Walking Disaster Area: He gets this treatment after being around things like the Covent Garden riot and fire in Rivers of London and the demolition of Skygarden Tower in Broken Homes, the latter of which he occasionally gets blamed for although the Faceless Man was truly responsible.
  • Yiddish as a Second Language: He uses a lot of these terms. (Justified: North and East London argot has adopted a lot of them.)
  • You Are in Command Now: After Nightingale is shot in Rivers of London, Peter, with only four months of experience in the Folly, ends up essentially running the Folly in all but name as the only officer active for the majority of Moon Over Soho. Reality Ensues when Ash, a river spirit, is stabbed, causing Peter's duty and the standard emergency procedure of the paramedics to conflict without Peter having the experience to smooth the disparity over. One hijacked ambulance later, Nightingale ends up stepping in and accepting blame for not providing better oversight.
    • Further downplayed throughout the series. While Nightingale is officially the Folly's leader throughout the books, Peter still ends up having to make executive decisions far more than a lowly police constable (or, later, a police detective) typically should because he has to take a compensating role for what Nightingale has not done or cannot do. The flaws and virtues of this are exposed throughout the series: Peter's influence greatly helps to jumpstart the resurrection of the Folly as a force of order maintenance, but as he is the first Folly-associated apprentice since World War II and the main force and catalyst of this change, this comes with many burdens, responsibilities, and duties that far outstretch what a police constable is usually expected to handle.
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    Thomas Nightingale 

DCI Thomas Nightingale

The last wizard in London, a DCI for the Met (London Police) heading a unit of one specializing in magical crimes. He becomes Peter's teacher during the first book.


  • Berserk Button:
    • His school's name was Casterbrook. If you wish to clean the toilets for next few weeks, do go ahead and keep calling it Hogwarts.
    • On a more serious note, certain forms of abuse of magic, and — especially — teaching magic without any of the discipline and restraints that Casterbrook taught its pupils tend to send Nightingale into the kind of quiet fury that makes Peter profoundly glad it isn't directed at him.
  • Cool Old Guy: Considering the man is more than a century old, he's way cool.
  • The Dreaded: Among the demi-monde, who know what he's capable of.
  • Gentleman and a Scholar: Being a full wizard in this universe means having an in-depth understanding of "Newtonian magic" which, as the name suggests, is a system of magic with natural laws which is studied using scientific principles in the hope of advancing understanding of magic and/or figuring out and stopping the latest string of magical crimes.
  • Gentleman Wizard: Right down to the silver-tipped cane.
  • Hidden Depths: Nightingale may look like an Officer and a Gentleman, but he once personally destroyed two Tiger tanks by himself.
  • Limited Advancement Opportunities: Has been stuck as a DCI for decades. Although the covert nature of his duties and the self-imposed stagnation of the Folly have probably contributed heavily to this, strictly speaking in organisational terms he should have been made a Detective Superintendent in the service re-structurings of the 1980s and 90s.
  • The Mentor: 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 Moon Over Soho, when the issue of Inhumanable Alien Rights and due process through the courts versus just killing sentient non-human possible criminals comes up.
  • 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.
  • Mistaken for Gay: The first time Peter saw Nightingale he thought he was being picked up.
  • My Grandson Myself: Due to his Merlin Sickness, he's occasionally attended funerals for people he used to know related to the Folly posing as his own son.
  • Old Master: He's over 100 years old, and a master wizard, although he dislikes the term.
  • Person of Mass Destruction: If you can blow up two Tiger tanks, you're this.
  • Polyglot: We've seen him speaking Danish, and know for a fact that he reads Latin fluently. It's strongly implied he also reads Greek, Arabic, German and French.
  • Pop-Cultural Osmosis Failure: Nightingale doesn't really get Peter's Harry Potter namedrops.
  • Quintessential British Gentleman: Not to stereotype levels, but the aspects are definitely there. Although he may be playing up the part.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure
  • Renaissance Man: Which turned out to be a good thing when he became the last practising wizard in the UK. Being able to forge his own staff, for one...
  • Sharp-Dressed Man: Even Lampshaded in The Hanging Tree. The most relaxed we've seen him dress is a polo shirt and blazer.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Though he conceals it much of the time, Nightingale evidently saw some extremely nasty things at Ettersberg, both in whatever ghastly research the Nazis' wizards were up to and in how his fellow Casterbrook alumni died.
  • The Stoic: He rarely shows signs of emotion, and never raises his voice.
  • Survivor Guilt: Nightingale is still haunted, even 60-odd years later, by his survivor guilt from WW2 and Ettersberg, the trip to the ruins of his old school (where they once taught wizardry) and the list of the fallen shows him to be still utterly broken by that last battle.
  • Technologically Blind Elders: It comes with the territory of being over 110 years old at the beginning of the series, having mostly withdrawn from society, and living in a building with magical protections that prevent the installation of new electronic connections. He does, however, prove himself quite capable of picking up technology quickly if sufficiently motivated, like the airwaves, the TV in the tech cave (for watching rugby), and in Lies Sleeping skyping.

    Abdul Walid 

Dr. Abdul Haqq Walid

A world renowned gastroenterologist who also doubles as a cryptopathologist. He's a Scot from Oban who was raised a Presbyterian, but converted to Islam while studying medicine.


  • Admiring the Abomination: Most of the things he comes across are Nightmare Fuel, but he handles it all rather well and demonstrates a scientist's curiosity. Considering that he's been doing it for decades, his attitude is not all that strange.
  • Collector of the Strange: Maybe not that strange given his role in the Folly, but Peter repeatedly claims he has a selection of brains suffering from hyperthaumaturgical degradation, and he's always eager for samples.
  • Masquerade: He handles the stranger autopsies that go on in London as well as handling medical care for the Folly's residents.
  • Nightmare Fetishist: He's very enthusiastic about new magical phenomena, and will frequently ask for samples.
  • Open Heart Dentistry: His work with the Folly entails autopsies on chimeras and victims of magical attacks, genetic analysis of tissues, and running MRIs on practitioners' brains to check for neural damage. Walid's formal medical specialty? Gastroenterology.
  • Supernatural Sensitivity: He's able to sense vestigia. In fact, his sensing of jazz music on Cyrus Wilkinson's body in the second book is what draws Peter into the case in the first place.
  • Technobabble: He's come up with a few medical terms for things have to do with magic, including hyperthaumaturgical degradation. He's also adept at translating both modern terminology and Peter's theories for Nightingale, so Peter occasionally has him explain his ideas for him.

    Toby 

Toby the Dog

A mongrel terrier who belonged to the late William Skirmish and now resides in the Folly.


  • Big Eater: He's always on the prowl for a meal. Something Peter and Nightingale take advantage of when faced with some of Molly's cooking.
  • Canine Companion
  • Dog Stereotype: Being a terrier, he's The Napoleon and being a mongrel he's street smart enough to make it back to the Folly by himself.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: Molly is normally his favourite because she feeds him, but when Horror Hunger overtakes her during the haemomancy rite, Toby senses she's lost control and rushes to protect Peter.
  • Heroic Dog: Near the end of the first book, he manages to fend off Molly when she was about to do Peter in.
  • Mysterious Animal Senses: He's able to sense the supernatural and reacts by barking.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Sausages.
  • Urine Trouble: In Body Work, Toby urinates on both the possessed cars' crushed remains, as if he's taunting the evil entity his human friends just bested.

    Molly 

Molly

The Folly's mysterious maid and cook.


  • Creepy Housekeeper: She moves around very silently, never speaks and has way too many teeth. All of this tends to unnerve people.
  • The Fair Folk: Peter's encounter with the Faerie Queen in Foxglove Summer leads him to believe that she and Molly are the same variety of fae.
  • Hidden Depths:
    • Book one implies that Molly and Beverley can communicate, although they don't do so in front of Peter. Later books hint that Molly has been going online in Peter's tech-cave when he's not around, which would be news to Peter who hadn't even realized she could type.
    • By Foxglove Summer, it's revealed that she's been using Twitter to trade recipes.
  • House Fey
  • Humanoid Abomination: Possibly. She creeps Peter out. Other supernatural beings and Toby are wary of her upon meeting her for the first time. Not even Nightingale seems to know what she is. To put that in perspective, even the Night Witch — who survived the Nazis and went toe-to-toe with Nightingale — is cautious of her. Given what happened to Peter at the end of the first book, their caution might be justified. Peter believes that there's some relation between her and the Pale Lady. In Lies Sleeping it's pretty much confirmed that she's a High Fae, and hinted to be one of a group traded by the Faerie Queen many years ago, with the others including the Pale Lady, "Charlotte Greenwood", and Foxglove.
  • Lethal Chef: She favours making dishes popular a century ago. This suits Nightingale, but sometimes horrifies Peter. As of Moon Over Soho she's been experimenting with new recipes, leading to an attempt at eggs Benedict that even Toby wouldn't eat. As of the fourth book, she's getting better thanks to the gift of a modern cookbook.
    • Body Work implies that Molly has begun privately trading recipes online while Peter's tech-cave is unoccupied.
  • Meido: Of the Edwardian variety.
  • More Teeth than the Osmond Family: There's a reason that she's usually silent and covers her mouth when she laughs. She also has an Overly Long Tongue.
  • Mysterious Past: She was found as a young girl, around the age of 10 or so, by the Folly in 1911 in the house of a Canadian criminal named Harry Speltz who was posing as a Chinese magician and alleged white slaver. Not even Speltz knew where she came from, and when she was brought into the grounds of the Folly, she refused to leave. Lies Sleeping indicates that she may be one of a group of High Fae traded by the Faerie Queen many years ago, but that still leaves many questions unanswered.
  • Older Than They Look: Looks like a young woman, but she's been at the Folly since she was a little girl, which was around 1911.
  • Shipper on Deck: In the "Tales from the Folly" bonus strip from issue #2 of the Action at a Distance comic, it is revealed that Molly is writing stories about Peter and Nightingale being romantic towards each other.
  • The Speechless/The Voiceless: It's unclear which trope applies; Peter's never heard her speak, but he has heard her shriek in distress and presumably laugh, so she's at least capable of that much.
  • Stab the Salad: In "Red Mist", a vignette in Body Work, she effortlessly makes the vigorous chopping of tomatoes look like a murder in progress.

    Lesley May 

Constable Lesley May

Peter's friend and fellow constable. After the end of book one she suffers an accident that destroys her face. The end of the second book reveals that she can do magic. She joins the Folly sometime before the third book begins. She is also a Walking Spoiler.


  • Action Girl: She's not scared of a fight.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: A pointed and horrifying aversion.
  • Deadpan Snarker: As is the case with most of the police force (and, indeed, most of the cast).
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: How evil she really is is debatable, but even after her Face–Heel Turn, she won't allow the Faceless Man to kill Peter.
  • Evil Counterpart/Foil: To Peter, after her Face–Heel Turn.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Comes to light in book 4.
  • Fair Cop: In both senses.
  • Out of Focus: She only has a couple of scenes in book 2, but is back on the main roster for book three.
  • Redemption Rejection: Refuses an offer to return during Lies Sleeping, choosing to kill Chorley and run instead.
  • Revenge: Aside from her face, a huge part of her motivation for working with the Faceless Man is hoping that he can help her get revenge for the possession and ruin of her face. Turns out it was really the only thing keeping her loyal to him by the end.
  • Scars Are Forever: Mr. Punch destroys her face. Despite her numerous operations, people are still shocked when they see her without her mask. Magic offers no cure either, which may be the reason she betrays Peter at the end of the fourth book since the Faceless Man was likely offering her a way to undo the damage.
  • Spell My Name with an "S": Some North American printings spell her first name as "Leslie".
  • Walking Spoiler: After the events of book one, pretty much everything she does has to come in spoiler tags. If you see a spoiler tag, it probably involves Lesley.
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    Frank Caffrey 

Frank Caffrey

A Fire Investigation Officer and a reservist for the 4th Battalion, Parachute Regiment who leads the Folly's secret Armed Response Unit.


  • Badass Normal: He's a normal — albeit well-trained and well-armed — man who has to provide backup when a wizard needs a bit of help.
  • Nerves of Steel: His reaction to Peter accidentally finding a crate of fragmentation grenades that had been sitting in a puddle in the Folly's weapons locker since 1946 was his voice going up two octaves while telling Peter to back away slowly.
  • Old Soldier
  • Sergeant Rock
  • Stiff Upper Lip: Granted he's a veteran and has probably been dealing with the supernatural for a while, but he doesn't show any fear despite the threat of a nest of vampires, a murderous ghost, a rogue magician, a chimera, and a trio of succubi.
  • Suddenly Significant Rule: When they find Skygarden's basement rooms padlocked, Peter and Lesley realize that Frank can legally order the locks cut off because it's a breach of fire safety codes. Subverted when Zach shows up and can pick the locks faster than that.

    Harold Postmartin 

Professor Harold Postmartin

The Folly's archivist. He's based out of the Bodleian Library of Oxford University.


    Jennifer Vaughan 

Dr. Jennifer Vaughan

The Folly's second pathologist, recruited by Dr. Walid once the rising number of Falcon incidents made it clear that a full-time forensics expert was needed. Very organized, very Welsh, and very happy to argue minutia with Walid.


  • The Coroner: Unlike Walid, forensic pathology is her professional specialty.
  • Fantastic Science: Her attitude to autopsying chimeras, Fae and talking foxes is that they're intriguing variants on known organisms whose physical differences should be properly documented and classified.

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The Rivers

    Mama Thames 

Mama Thames

A Nigerian nurse-in-training who attempted suicide and ended up becoming the goddess of the Thames.


    Father Thames 

Father Thames

The god of the Thames since the Romans were in Britain. He abandoned London during the Great Stink and hasn't returned.


    Tyburn 

Tyburn "Lady Ty" Thames, aka Lady Cecelia Tyburn-Thames

The goddess of the Tyburn and Mama Thames' eldest daughter. She's dissatisfied with the current state of the supernatural community and wants to replace it with something more organized, including a government branch that handles supernatural matters.


  • Aloof Big Sister: Beverley describes her as such.
  • Big Sister Instinct: As the oldest sister of the Thames daughters, which makes it personally annoying to her how none of the others want to rely on her.
  • Charm Person: She's strong enough that she makes Peter buy flowers, get on a train, and come see her despite his never having met her before and the fact that he was nowhere near her at the time.
  • Compelling Voice: She tries to use it on Peter to make him drink some water and end up under her complete control. It almost works.
  • The Dragon: To her mother.
  • Happily Married: To her husband George. Unlike Oxley, she isn't able to grant her husband the same immortality she has.
  • Hypocrite:
    • She's not subtle about her contempt for the current state of the Folly being held together by old agreements and the Old Boy Network, but she will happily use her own influence and political power to try and control things, including locking Peter out of the Folly until he bribes her mother, and later ordering him to shield her daughter during an investigation regardless of whether or not her daughter's actually innocent.
    • She likes to taunt Grant about his lower class upbringing, education, and the troubles of his mother's first home, Sierra Leone. Her mother was from Nigeria and only became a goddess because she chose to commit suicide by jumping into the Thames after she failed to pass her medical exams.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Peter actually agrees with her about the Folly being woefully insufficient for handling London's magical community, and badly needing to be updated. He just doesn't trust her to be the one running things.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Tyburn is ruthless, cunning and merciless to those who oppose her and seem to find glee in humiliating Peter, but she's by no account an actual villain and loves her family (both her sisters/mother and husband/children).
  • Legacy Character: She is not the first spirit of the Tyburn, and Peter meets the ghost of the previous one in book three.
  • Making a Splash: Being the goddess of a river, she has control over water. The first time we see her in the book she uses it for the rather mundane task of filling a vase.
  • Mama Bear: Tyburn isn't prone to on-screen violence, but as The Hanging Tree shows, threaten her children, and you will be making the worst mistake of your life. Not coincidentally, unless you're the Faceless Man, and even then it was close, it will also be the last.
  • Manipulative Bitch: Oh, yes.
  • Nothing Personal: As she notes to Peter at the end of The Hanging Tree, she has nothing against him and Nightingale as people besides how they're continual headaches in her attempt to modernize all the "arrangements".
  • Outliving One's Offspring: Is dreading this happening as her children age normally when she's immortal.
  • The Starscream: Mama Thames is quite happy with tradition and holding court out of her flat, Tyburn is... not. Lady Ty has ambitions to sweep away the Folly and all the systems of "arrangements" and get everything out in the open. She also quite likes prowling the corridors of power at Westminster and Whitehall. Nightingale has said that when the eventual clash between Tyburn and Mama Thames comes, it might be a good idea to take a holiday somewhere very far away.
  • Woman of Wealth and Taste

    Oxley Thames 

Oxley Thames

Father Thames' son and right hand man. He's said to be the wisest of Father Thames' sons and is the god of the Oxley Mill River/Abbey River.


    Fleet Thames 

Fleet Thames

Goddess of the Fleet River. A woman in her mid-thirties who (unsurprisingly) is heavily involved in journalism and art.


  • Cool Aunt: To Tyburn's kids. Olivia McAllister-Thames felt comfortable enough about her to tell her she was a lesbian — something Tyburn (her mother) only learned years later.
  • Massive Numbered Siblings: Beverley mentions she takes in runaways and orphans and has a double-digit number of adoptive children, many of them magical.
  • One Degree of Separation: When first meeting her, Peter finds her familiar, and she tells him he went to the same school as her kids.

    Beverley Brook 

Beverley Brook Thames

The spirit of the Beverley Brook. Peter's on and off love interest. Likes to drive Minis and act a lot more "street smart" than she really is.


  • Born of Magic: Implied; she says that her mother just found her floating in the river as a baby. This leads Peter to crack a joke about her being "created by the midi-chlorians", a reference she doesn't get.
  • Girl of the Week: Initially just one of these in book one, but fleshed out later on.
  • Making a Splash: Big enough to flood Covent Garden.
  • Pretty Fly for a White Guy: A mild example of this, as Peter notes in book one, in that her river flows through some pretty upper-middle class areas despite her acting all street and urban. This is reflected in her choice of car, which is the very middle-class MINI.
  • Put on a Bus: At the end of book one.
  • Reincarnation Romance: An unusual sort, in Lies Sleeping the male version that was Father Thames' son is just as affectionate with Peter as she is and Peter's able to identify him just by a kiss.
  • Surprise Pregnancy: With Peter at the end of Lies Sleeping, though she doesn't seem to mind much.
  • Violently Protective Girlfriend: At the end of Foxglove Summer, she wields a shotgun when rescuing Peter from the Faerie Queen.

    Chelsea and Olympia 

Westbourne and Counter's Creek Thames

The Spirits of the Rivers Westbourne and Counter's Creek, who are usually seen hanging out together on account of being twins.

    Lea 

Lea Thames

The personification of the River Lea, and the only one of Mama Thames' daughters who isn't the same ethnicity as her.


  • Ambiguous Situation: Since it's pretty clear that Mother and Father Thames only have children who are the same sex and ethnicity as themselves, Lea being white and one of the daughters of the originally-Nigerian Mama Thames begs several questions. Peter's come up with a few theories to explain her, but the truth has yet to be explained. This is particularly interesting given that Walbrook, introduced in Lies Sleeping, is a river spirit predating Father Thames, but doesn't associate herself with Mama Thames, while Lea does.
  • Uniformity Exception: The only one of Mama Thames' daughters who's white instead of black.

    Nicky 

Neckinger "Nicky" Thames

The personification of the "lost" River Neckinger in South London.


  • Beware the Cute Ones: She's an adorable little girl with the power to drown a man on dry land.
  • Goo Goo Godlike: Not older than ten, and a young river goddess who has the power to drown a man on dry land and bend unprepared minds to her will. Her family does their best to keep her in check and prevent her from misusing her powers.

    Lulu 

Lulu/Walbrook

The personification of the Walbrook, once the most important river in Roman Londinium. She runs a pub in Shoreditch, and doesn't associate with the other Rivers because she's not one of Mama Thames' clan, but something much older.
  • Morality Chain: Being the daughter of Gaius Pulcinella makes her the only person who can talk down Mr Punch.
  • Really 700 Years Old: Is only slightly younger than Father Thames.

Members of the London Metropolitan Police Service (and other police services), not in the employ of the Folly

    Alexander Seawoll 

DCI Alexander Seawoll

Head of the murder team and Stephanopoulos' boss. He's aware of the supernatural, but doesn't like it one bit, especially when it interferes with proper policing.


  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: He's not fond of Nightingale, but he's genuinely protective of Lesley and considers her to be one of the finest constables of her generation.
  • Not Using the "Z" Word: He doesn't like the word "magic" being used.
  • Oop North: Peter's description of him in book one: He was from Yorkshire, or somewhere like that, and like many Northerners with issues, he’d moved to London as a cheap alternative to psychotherapy.
  • Old-Fashioned Copper: He projects this image, but according to Peter in Lies Sleeping is really as modern a copper as ever actioned a community outreach project going forward.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: He's not above bending the rules or upholding the Masquerade, but he's also one of the best there is at what he does.
  • Sir Swears-a-Lot: He does quite a bit of casual swearing.

    Miriam Stephanopoulos 

DI Miriam Stephanopoulos

Seawoll's right hand, but also an accomplished detective in her own right.


  • Death Glare
  • Face of a Thug: Peter describes her as "a squat, angry-faced middle-aged woman with lank brown hair who looked like she fought Rottweilers for a hobby", but she's a reasonable person who actually has a sense of humour.
  • Number Two: To Seawoll.
  • Rank Up: Promoted from Detective Sergeant to Detective Inspector at some time between the second and third books.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: She more or less takes Seawoll's place during the second book while he's recovering from the incident in the first book. She's less antagonistic about magic, but still wants all the cases to be solved with evidence that can actually be presented in court.
  • Spell My Name with an "S": Her last name has sometimes been spelled "Stephanopoulis".

    Sahra Guleed 

Constable Sahra Guleed

A junior member of Seawoll's team, who's worked with the Folly enough to have become the Murder Team's unofficial go-to officer on Falcon operations. Guleed immigrated from Somalia at a young age, has a knack for getting suspects to confess to her by appearing graciously sympathetic, and is an observant Muslim.


  • Badass Normal: Up until Lies Sleeping, Guleed had no magical ability whatsoever, yet she survived two run-ins with the Faceless Man and subdued another hostile wizard with a Glasgow kiss.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: If Tyburn's snark is to be believed, Guleed's father worked for the Somali secret police before the civil war sent the family fleeing to Britain.
  • Empowered Badass Normal: As of Lies Sleeping, she's learning Supernatural Martial Arts from Michael Cheung.
  • Nice Hat/Simple, yet Opulent: Wears a high-quality hijab, of which she has quite a collection.
  • Ninja: Guleed jokes about being a "Muslim ninja" when Peter first meets her during the raid on the Strip Club of Dr. Moreau.
  • Riches to Rags: Her family was wealthy when she was a child, until suddenly they weren't. She's deliberately vague as to how or why this happened.
  • Supernatural Martial Arts: As of Lies Sleeping, she has started to learn this under the guidance of Michael Cheung.

    David Carey 

DC David Carey

Another junior member of Seawoll's team, who's worked on Folly cases and shares a two-person desk with Peter and Sahra Guleed. Mostly involved with the non-magical aspects of investigations, he's more uncomfortable with the supernatural than curious about it. By Lies Sleeping, he has an emotional breakdown over the violence and weirdness of Falcon cases in general and Operation Jennifer in particular, and is placed on medical leave.


  • If Jesus, Then Aliens: Carey is perplexed to learn that Peter doesn't take God's existence as a given, considering all the supernatural things Peter does believe in.
  • Innocent Bigot: A mild example; although he works productively with Grant and Guleed, his occasional ignorant comments are received by them with a "Sheltered white boy, what can you do?" response.
  • The Team Normal: Becomes this among the Peter/Sahra/David trio of junior Murder Team members once Guleed becomes a trainee Legendary Swordswoman.

    Jaget Kumar 

Sergeant Jaget Kumar

A member of the British Transport Police, as well as an urban explorer and spelunker.


  • Agent Mulder: When he finds out that magic is real, he acts with excitement rather than disbelief. Given that he keeps track of the strange things that happen in the Underground — including reports of ghosts — and the fact that he's actually an X-Files fan, his reaction isn't uprising.
  • Love-Obstructing Parents: Inverted; his family and his wife's were exuberant when they started dating, so much so that the couple had to smuggle Indian spices into a white-owned fish-and-chip shop in order to eat out without pushy relatives turning up to badger them about their wedding plans.
  • Seeker Archetype: He's a spelunker and urban explorer in his spare time.

    Dominic Croft 

DC Dominic Croft

A rural policeman in Leominster, Herefordshire, who worked with Peter on the fairy-abduction case in Foxglove Summer, and makes brief appearances in the Black Mould comic story and its "Legal Sabotage" vignette.


  • Crazy-Prepared: Dominic keeps such a complete stock of evidence-collecting materials and tools in his vehicle that Peter rates him as having a near-Batman grade in this trope.
  • Straight Gay: Is in a committed relationship with Victor, a farmer.
  • Wacky Parent, Serious Child: Mild example; Dominic is a serious-minded officer of the law, whereas his Mum tries to side-step housing regulations by setting up a bed & breakfast in her outbuilding but still calling it a "cowshed".

    Kimberley Reynolds 

Special Agent Kimberley Reynolds

An FBI agent assigned to liaison with the Met's investigation into the Gallagher murder, who became Peter's main U.S. contact after she took part in opening up relations with the Quiet People. She grew up in Oklahoma, and is a devout Christian who dislikes foul language.


  • Action Girl: Does not hesitate to open fire when threatened, in marked (and very American) contrast to Peter and Kumar who don't even carry firearms.
  • Cowboy Cop: Although not violent unless threatened, Kim is very proactive and aggressive about her work, to the point of ditching her Met liaison and launch her own unsanctioned one-woman investigation on foreign soil.
  • Fair Cop: Good-looking enough that she initially dyed her auburn hair a mousy brown to ensure people would treat her more as a law-enforcement officer than an attractive redhead.
  • Significant Green-Eyed Redhead: Naturally red-haired with green eyes.

Family, Friends, and Miscellaneous Spirits

    Richard Grant 

Richard "Lord" Grant

Peter's father. He was a famous trumpet player in his time and on the verge of becoming a legend until heroin addiction ended that chance. It's hinted in the second book that because he was a victim of the jazz-vampire/succubus Simone, the addiction wasn't completely his fault.


  • 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.
  • Career Resurrection: An In-Universe example. He switched instruments and formed a band with some secondary characters from the second novel. As of the fourth, he's considering dental surgery so that he can play the trumpet again.
  • Cool Old Guy: He's not quite The Mentor, but he will hand out advice to his son. Being a rather famous jazz musician — at least to those who know jazz — also helps. In fact, his knowledge of jazz proves quite helpful in the second book.
  • Functional Addict: Heroin destroyed his teeth and thus his embouchure, which meant he could no longer play the trumpet with the same amount of skill. He was receiving free clean heroin and safe paraphernalia thanks to a doctor who was his fan. As of the second book he's given up heroin.
  • Parents as People: He means well, and Peter does love him, but being a mostly under control heroin addict limits your parenting abilities.

    Rose Grant 

Rose Mamusu Grant

Peter's Sierra Leonean mother.


  • Apron Matron
  • The Clan: Peter suspects his Mum is related to roughly half the population of Sierra Leone, and regularly keeps in touch with each and every one of the ones she's still speaking to.
  • Education Mama: She wanted Peter to be something more than a police officer. She actually finds that his working with magic is a more acceptable career than being a constable, and tells certain people that he's a witch smeller.
  • Ethnic Menial Labor: She's a cleaning lady.
  • It's All About Me: Apparently common among African mothers. Peter had to fight her not to take his personal belongings when she decided someone else needed them more, and she's mentioned as regularly having arguments when someone else disagrees with her. Even Nightingale finds her a force to be reckoned with.
  • I Want Grandkids: In book six, she nags Peter about this, even offering to take care of any kids he and Beverly might have so they won't have to take time away from their own pursuits.
  • Lethal Chef: She's not a bad cook, but her love of hot spices borders on the incendiary. Given the number of supernatural beings in the series, there's a chance that we might find out if her cooking is literally Too Spicy for Yog-Sothoth.
  • No Name Given: Belatedly averted. Because the books are first person and Peter obviously calls her "Mum", her name never came up. When people pointed this out, Aaronovitch immediately had someone use it in the audio-only short story "A Rare Book of Cunning Device".
  • Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions: Given that the series takes place in what's more or less the real world, most people don't believe in the supernatural and those that do are seen as superstitious or ignorant. This led to a bit of initial Arbitrary Skepticism on Peter's part when his mother attacked Simone and called her a witch. Peter didn't believe that Simone was around when his parents first met, i.e. before he was born. It turns out that his mother was right. Simone is an ageless being and has been feeding off of jazz musicians since World War II.
  • Parents as People: Less so than her husband, but she still expects Peter to do as she wants, even as an adult. According to Peter, African women have children so there's someone else to do the chores.
  • Stealing from the Till: Judging by some of the items in the Grants' flat, she's not above taking home a few "perks" from the offices she cleans, like paper towels or complimentary biscuits left out for the cubicle-staff.

    Zachary Palmer 

Zachary Palmer

A young man Peter meets while investigating a murder in the third book. He proves to be more than he appears and introduces Peter to London's supernatural underground.


  • Bad Liar
  • Big Eater: His appetite falls somewhere between comical and frightening. Despite eating so much, he's still described as skinny.
  • "Friends" Rent Control: First seen living apparently rent-free in a small, maid-serviced mews house in the achingly hip and unbelievably expensive Notting Hill area. Apparently his presence is more or less legitimate, he just happened to befriend an American art student (and murder victim) with extremely rich and well-connected parents and became his housemate in return for introducing him to the Quiet People.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: To quote: "My dad was a fairy," said Zach. "And by that I don’t mean he dressed well and enjoyed musical theatre."
  • Hopeless Suitor: In love with Elizabeth Ten-Tons, who was betrothed to someone else and in a secret romance with Zach's roommate.
  • Master of Unlocking: Zach can open locks in seconds without leaving a trace he's done so. He claims it's a "family talent", although whether it's a fae thing or not is unclear.
  • Motor Mouth
  • Walking the Earth: Albeit not in a heroic way, and he seems to confine his wandering to London. He's a rough sleeper. Lesley theorizes that it may have something to do with him being fae.

    Oberon 

Oberon

A fae introduced in the third book.


  • Badass Longcoat: He wears a faded version of the red coat that gave British soldiers their nickname.
  • Cool Sword
  • The Fair Folk: Despite his name and despite being a fae, he's not the Oberon of legend.
  • Really 700 Years Old: Despite looking like a young man, he's old enough to have been a slave at some point during the era of the Atlantic slave trade.
  • Scars Are Forever: His back still bears the scars from his time as a slave.
  • War God: There's evidence — aside from the way he dresses — that he may be some sort of spirit of battle. He takes Nightingale's oath as a soldier rather seriously in the fourth book.

    Sky 

Sky

The Anthropomorphic Personification of the trees in the Skygarden Estate in book four.


  • Nature Spirit: Specifically a wood nymph from a London plane tree.

    Abigail Kamara 

Abigail Kamara

A teenage cousin of Peter's and a neighbour of his parents, who learned of Peter's interest in magic from Mrs. Grant. Her stubborn determination to snoop into ghosts and other supernatural phenomena led Peter to concoct an unofficial "cadet" branch of the Folly, purely to keep an eye on her.


  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Technically she's Peter's cousin, being the daughter of Rose Grant's half-brother, but she still fills the spot.
  • The Apprentice: Eventually manages to become an official apprentice of Nightingale's through being an excellent student, having a tendency to get into sometimes dangerous magical affairs, and being willing to experiment with dangerous magic on her own if they don't teach her how to properly use it.
  • A Day in the Limelight: The short story "Favourite Uncle" shows us what Abigail's up to when not at the Folly: accumulating supernatural experience of her own, embarking on investigations for her friends, and visiting her brother, a long-time cancer patient, in the hospital.
  • Paranormal Investigation: Most of her fieldwork as a junior Folly associate is ghost-spotting in and around London.
  • Tagalong Kid: Abigail wants to be this, despite the dangers of probing the supernatural.

    Thomas Debden 

Thomas Debden

An auto mechanic introduced in the Body Work comic story. Now the Folly's regular vehicle repairman and contact for cases where knowledge of cars, modern or vintage, is beneficial.


  • Hopeless Suitor: Upon meeting Molly, Thomas followed her into the Folly, only to emerge a few minutes later in a state of mute shock. He's been terrified of meeting her again, so no chance.
  • Messy Hair: Tom wears his hair in short beaded braids that dangle all over erratically.

The Villains

    Mr. Punch 

Mr. Punch/Henry Pyke

The villain of the first book and recurring element in later books, Henry Pyke is a revenant: A powerful ghost of a murdered actor capable of sequestering humans and forcing them to act out scenes from Punch and Judy with fatal real-world effects.


  • Anthropomorphic Personification: Mr. Punch is a spirit of riot and rebellion. In life he was the Roman citizen Gaius C. Pulcinella, son of the Atrebates' leader.
  • Broken Pedestal: In life, believed so much in law and order that when Boudica led the Iceni to attack Londoninium he refused to flee with his family. Their horrific fates and the failure of the Roman authorities led him to become the anti-authority Mr. Punch he is now.
  • The Bus Came Back: Peter keeps hearing Mr. Punch in his head well after the first book is over. By The Hanging Tree, this effect is powerful enough for Punch to talk to Peter directly and he's a major character in Lies Sleeping.
  • Demonic Possession: The modus operandi of the killing spree.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Pretty much the only one who can talk him down is his daughter, Walbrook.
  • Facial Horror: Humans who get sequestered to play the role of Mr. Punch have their facial structures horribly distorted to resemble the puppet. Once the effect ends, the faces literally deflate and most victims die of blood loss almost immediately.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: How Peter stops Mr. Punch in the first book. He's forced to free him when Martin Chorley tries to sacrifice Mr. Punch for power.
  • The Man Behind the Man: Henry Pyke and Mr. Punch are actually two distinct entities. Pyke is what he seems to be — the revenge-driven ghost of a murdered 18th century actor — but Punch is something much older, more powerful and malicious.
  • Monstrous Cannibalism: Revenants survive by "eating" less powerful ghosts.
  • Obliviously Evil: The ghost of Henry Pyke turns out to be unaware that his theatre act is actually killing people.
  • Revenant Spirit: What Pyke turns out to be.
  • Revenge: Pyke's motivation. Having his murderer's play put up on a theatre turns out to have been the catalyst that starts the killing and two of the audience become the first victims.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: As a Classically Trained Extra, Pyke uses a lot of theatrical language and has a lot of trouble actually breaking the habit even when disguised as his latest victim.
  • Worthy Opponent: Pyke mentions that he thinks of Peter as the comedy element of the play — a bumbling Inspector Javert whose constant failures are there for laughs. Needless to say, Peter does not reciprocate.

    The Faceless Man 

The Faceless Man/Martin Chorley

The ethically challenged magician introduced in the second book and the closest thing the series has to a Big Bad so far. He's the second man to hold the title. The first — Albert Woodville-Gentle — was likely his teacher.


  • Aristocrats Are Evil: Given his speculated background, he's either an example of this or Screw the Rules, I Have Money!. His home also contains paintings of kings and queens of England, and his rant to Peter indicates he favours people of pure English descent like Lesley over descendents of immigrants like Peter.
  • Barrier Warrior: Protects himself with forcefields in his earlier appearances.
  • Big Bad: In several of the books.
  • Blow You Away: Uses a lot of wind magic.
  • Boom, Headshot!: The moment Lesley finds out he can't kill Mr. Punch, she helps Peter beat him and then shoots him dead.
  • The Chessmaster: He comes across as this. He works behind the scenes and has been planning things for a long time, with very few people even knowing that he exists.
  • Collector of the Strange: Has at least one storage unit filled with occult books and artefacts that even the Folly doesn't have copies of. The supernatural pub the Chestnut Tree contains another one hidden in the basement.
  • Compelling Voice: He uses it to try and make Peter commit suicide in the second book.
  • Cool Mask: He's always wearing one. Peter describes him as looking like an "unusually tasteful Mexican wrestler". It's part of the face-obscuring spell he uses.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Is given to leaving smart-alecky "warnings" on his booby traps.
  • Diabolical Mastermind: Owns an as-of-yet unknown number of shell companies and trusts that lets him fund his as-of-yet unknown agenda. Both Broken Homes and The Hanging Tree shows that he owns properties and companies all over London.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: At least part of his motivation in The Hanging Tree is revenge against those who provided the drugs that caused his daughter to suffer a fatal brain haemorrhage.
  • Evil Counterpart/Foil: To Nightingale. They're both wizards from the old gentry, with old-fashioned ideas, but they approach them very differently.
  • Evil Sorcerer: Very much so. He uses a lot of magic that Nightingale finds reprehensible. He's created supernatural beings and has others working for him as assassins/hired muscle.
  • The Faceless: It's in his name. It's actually a Glamour that stops people from seeing what he looks like.
  • Fan of the Past: The Dark Ages, viewing it as a time when people could be legends. More specifically, the questionable history of Arthurian legends.
  • Genre Blindness: Peter lampshades that for all the Faceless Man's chessmaster brilliance, deciding to turn up for a Rooftop Confrontation on a building you're planning to blow up is really stupid.
  • Hidden Agenda Villain: Exactly what his endgame is is unknown to everyone save himself. In Lies Sleeping, it's discovered he wants to recreate the mythical England of Arthurian legend and take the position of Merlin to a new Arthur.
  • Legacy Character: The second villain to use the name.
  • Man of Wealth and Taste: He's a high class evil magician with an Oxford education and a taste for cravats.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: In The Hanging Tree, Peter and Nightingale take notice of the fact that the Faceless Man's actions in that book seem far sloppier than what they're used to from him. The reveal that it's a Roaring Rampage of Revenge against the people involved in his daughter's death by drug overdose explains a lot. This sloppiness is also a major factor in the Folly learning his identity.
  • Pet the Dog: Unlike the first Faceless Man, who seems to have used them purely as slaves, he treated the three fae under his control more kindly and took Foxglove to see museums.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: His rant at Peter in the end of The Hanging Tree has a lot of racist undertones.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: He shows a distinct preference for avoiding unnecessary deaths: he uses dogs to power his demon traps, and only sets off the explosives to illegally demolish Skygarden Tower after he's confirmed it's been evacuated.
  • Psychic-Assisted Suicide: His favourite disposal method when he wants to be subtle.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: What his actions in The Hanging Tree amount to. Murdering the drug dealer who sold his daughter's friends the drugs that killed her, trying to kill the aforementioned friends and the criminal who helped his daughter steal some of his magical artefacts and as a result introduced her to the friends that got her killed.
  • Visionary Villain: His crimes are to ultimately create his ideal England where he can be a Merlin to a new Arthur.
  • Wicked Cultured: Is a fan of Tolkien and C.S. Lewis.

    Varvara Tamonina 

Varvara Sidorovna Tamonina

Former Soviet "Night Witch" and Nightingale's fellow victim of Merlin Sickness. Previously in the employ of the first Faceless Man and probably responsible for his untimely death.


  • The Baroness
  • Chekhov's Gunman: First appears in Whispers Under Ground as Albert Woodville-Gentle's nurse, under an assumed name.
  • The Dragon: In book four.
  • Merlin Sickness: She was born in the 1920s, and started aging backwards in the late '60s.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: She sees herself as a service provider who has no particular grudge against the heroes, or loyalty to the Faceless Man beyond the fact he hired her.

    The Pale Lady 

The Pale Lady

The Faceless Man's Hit-Woman.


    Reynard Fossman 

Reynard Fossman

A minor criminal who patterns his behaviour on, and may be a fae manifestation of, the French folklore-figure Reynard the Fox. A nasty little thief, grifter and would-be statutory rapist, although not a killer so far as Peter knows.
  • Affably Evil: Charming, smooth-talking, and completely unashamed of his chickenhawk tendencies.
  • Animal Motif: Plays his "fox" role to the hilt.
  • Legacy Character: Apparently one of many demi-monde fae-types to play the part of Reynard the Fox.
  • Meaningful Name: "Fossman" roughly translates as "fox-man".
  • Shapeshifter: Possibly the case, as Peter sees his teeth visibly sharpen when Fossman is tussling with an enemy, and a rip in his shirt reveals a hairy chest. He might have spoken to Abigail in a true fox-form near the end of Book Three.
  • The Trickster: He certainly tries to be true to the "Reynard" archetype.

    Charlotte Greenwood 

Charlotte Greenwood

A fae who worked as a Hit-Man for the Faceless Man.


  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Was close with the Pale Lady and Foxglove.
  • Magical Nanny: A literal one, and was very effective at keeping the children of her target under control while working for him. Peter hopes that this was because the was a good nanny, and not just terrifying.
  • No Name Given: One of the first things the police find out about the name she was working under is that it was an identity purchased from a Scottish drug addict. The name "Charlotte Greenwood" was given to her after her death as part of Dr Vaughn's classification system: "Charlotte" because she's the third High Fae they've investigated and "Greenwood" (or initially "Green") for "gamma", because High Fae are the third type of magical being Dr Vaughn's looked at.

    Foxglove 

Foxglove

A fae who works for the Faceless Man.


  • Anti-Magic: Has the power to prevent human practitioners from using their own powers, though it's dependent on her emotional state.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Was close to the other fae she was sold with and does not take the news of their deaths well.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Peter's friendliness and honesty ultimately convinces her to help him escape the Faceless Man.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: She isn't very malevolent, she just works for the current Faceless Man because she was sold by a fae queen to the first one and she doesn't have anywhere else to go.


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