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aka: Midnight Riot

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"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..."
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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 Thomas Nightingale. Written by former Doctor Who writer Ben Aaronovitch, the series comprises seven novels so far, plus seven graphic novels, one novella and several short stories. The series is rapidly heading into Expanded Universe territory, with upcoming novellas and comics featuring different point of view characters, settings and time periods, as well as an upcoming TV adaption by the production company Stolen Picture.

The books:

  • Rivers of London, or Midnight Riot in the US (January 2011)
  • Moon Over Soho (April 2011)
  • Whispers Under Ground (2012)
  • Broken Homes (2013)
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  • Foxglove Summer (2014)
  • The Hanging Tree (2016)
  • The Furthest Station (novella) (2017)
  • Lies Sleeping (2018)
  • False Value (release date November 2019)

Short stories:

  • "The Home Crowd Advantage"
  • "The Domestic"
  • "The Cockpit"
  • "The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Granny"
  • "King of the Rats"
  • "A Rare Book of Cunning Device"
  • "Favourite Uncle"
  • "Cock of the Wall"

Peter's Friends Novellas:

  • The October Man
  • What Abigail Did That Summer
  • Untitled Kimberley Reynolds novella
  • Untitled Nightingale novella

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.

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

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In April 2019, almost six years after first being optioned for TV, it was announced that Nick Frost and Simon Pegg’s UK-based production company, Stolen Picture, has optioned the rights to a television adaption of the series.

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


The books contain examples of:

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    A-K 
  • Above the Influence: Peter turns down a very drunk Lesley about halfway through Whispers Under Ground.
  • Absent Aliens: They're the only fantasy creatures Peter names that Nightingale hasn't encountered yet, and says he wouldn't be surprised if they showed up soon.
  • 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, leaving aside the fact that her biological daughter is an obnoxious, mind-controlling brat.
  • 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, 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.
  • Alliterative Name: Christina Chorley, overdose victim in The Hanging Tree.
  • Alone with the Psycho: Happens to Peter during The Hanging Tree when he realizes, halfway through a routine check-up for occult material in a victim's home, that the victim's father is the Faceless Man.
  • American Kirby Is Hardcore: The covers of the first US editions of Rivers of London and Moon Over Soho transformed 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'm the Queen of Sheba: In The Hanging Tree, when Lady Caroline Linden-Limmer reveals her real identity as she's being put in a Falcon cell at Belgravia, as well as that her mother's a viscountess, the custody sergeant responds "And mine's a Jaffa Cake."
  • 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.
  • And Then What?: In Foxglove Summer, Peter encounters two racists in a café who, now they have the opportunity to actually practice their racism, don't know what to do, so they don't really do anything. Peter isn't impressed, and doesn't feel at all threatened.
  • 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.
  • Arbitrary Skepticism: Despite having met many supernatural people, and being able to use magic himself, Peter insists that the Arthurian legends were all made up.
  • 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.
  • Artifact Title: In France, where London landmarks aren't such a selling point, the series was renamed Le Dernier Apprenti Sorcier, "The Last Sorcerer's Apprentice". A reasonable attempt, given they only had the contents of the first volume to go on, but one that has become less accurate with every subsequent volume.
  • 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 Moon Over Soho fall squarely into this trope too.
  • Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: Lesley claims Peter is too easily-distracted to be a street cop. In his defence, 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, experienced and had to do at Ettersberg (better known for being the location of the Buchenwald concentration camp).
  • Badass in a Nice Suit: Nightingale. His style may be a bit old-fashioned, but Peter often comments on his well-tailored suits and handmade shoes.
  • 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 Under Ground 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. At the end of book seven, Lies Sleeping, the Faceless Man, aka Martin Chorley, is shot dead and vacates the position of the Big Bad. Who rises up to fill it is yet to be seen.
  • Big Damn Heroes:
    • Nightingale is usually the BDH, such as in Book 4 when he rescues Leslie and Peter from the Night Witch and her cronies by magically ripping the front of the barn open "like a zipper" and then lifting and dropping the barn's roof. The subsequent fight sees another building destroyed. This was after he magically faked the sound of a car driving up to the barn and parking out in the front to distract the baddies inside from the fact that he was approaching from the rear.
    • Beverley has to be the BDH in Foxglove Summer, when Peter had expected Nightingale.
    • Another one of Nightingale's BDH moments can be pinpointed to Lies Sleeping, when a dizzy and injured Peter is about to be attacked by Chorley. Nightingale intervenes and literally sucks Chorley off his feet and throws him backwards through a nearby window, then protectively puts himself between Peter on the ground and said broken window, shielding his apprentice. Accompanied by the very soldierly quote "On your feet, Grant", this moment is pure Thomas "Tiger Tank" Nightingale.
    • DI Miriam Stephanopoulos in Lies Sleeping. Not only does she taser Martin Chorley, but also keeps tasering him even when Lesley May orders Stephanopoulos to drop the taser — while pointing a gun at her. To this, Stephanopoulos only replies "If you're going to shoot, then shoot."
  • Big Eater: Zachary Palmer, implied to be part of his nature as a half-fae.
  • Bigger Is Better in Bed: After Peter and Beverley turn up naked at a travelling carnival in Foxglove Summer, a woman eyes Peter up and down and comments "You wouldn't get many of those for a fiver!" All of Peter's sexual encounters are described as pretty amazing and never disappointing. May cross over with Black Is Bigger in Bed given Peter's mixed-race heritage, although it is not played this way.
  • 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.
    • Book seven, Lies Sleeping, is a prime example of a bittersweet ending: The mixed feelings of Beverley telling Peter she is pregnant and Martin Chorley dead and defeated — but also Peter being (temporarily) suspended from the Met because of the circumstances of Chorley's death and thus banned from the grounds of the Folly, and (finally) getting into psychotherapy to better deal with his work-related accumulation of trauma throughout the last seven books.
  • 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 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. Also, the Faceless Man very probably counts as one, as well as his predecessor — or as Peter would say, ethically challenged magician.
  • Body Horror:
    • The victims of Punch in book one. He uses a spell to reshape the face of the person he's possessing into his own face, shattering bone and damaging tissue in the process. The spell holds it together while it's active, but as soon as the spell ends, the person's face falls apart.
    • The victims of the Pale Lady with the Vagina Dentata.
    • Several of the Faceless Man's means of doing away with underlings who threaten his secrets (willfully or merely because they were arrested) cross the line into this. Implied to also be true of some of his creations at the Strip Club of Dr. Moreau.
  • 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.
    • The novellas probably count here as well.
  • 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.
  • Canine Companion: Toby is this to Peter, Molly and Nightingale.
  • 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: 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 Moon Over 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. This trend continues throughout the next books, even with Peter's magical abilities steadily growing.
  • 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 Fair Folk.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The E. coli outbreak from Whispers Under Ground.
  • Chekhov's Gunman:
    • In Whispers Under Ground, Albert Woodville-Gentle's nurse Varenka, who is revealed in Broken Homes to be Soviet Night Witch and Merlin Sickness victim Varvara Sidorovna Tamonina.
    • In Broken Homes, Peter encounters a Somali cleaner named Awa Shambir at the empty County Gard offices, who he notes is wearing a suspiciously high-quality hijab. In The Hanging Tree, it's revealed she's an adopted British noblewoman, Lady Caroline Linden-Limmer, and practitioner of the Society of the Rose.
  • Chekhov's Skill:
    • Peter's and his father's jazz expertise pays off in Moon Over Soho.
    • Peter's knowledge of architecture and its history, previously used for Scenery Porn and Shown Their Work, proves very plot-useful in Broken Homes.
  • 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.
    • Book six, The Hanging Tree, ends with teasing the return of Mister Punch and his connection to Lesley, kicking in the last episode of the first big story arc — Lies Sleeping.
    • The ending of book seven, Lies Sleeping, is neatly tied up at first view, but also leaves the reader hanging on the threads of the last-page reveal that Beverley is expecting Peter's and her child, and the cases of what's going to happen concerning Lesley May, the crumbling Masquerade, Peter's future in the Met, and the expansion of the Folly re: new apprentices.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Peter's mental reaction to Agent Reynolds' warning that somebody connected to U.S. intelligence has been grilling her about him:
    Fuck, fuck, fuckitty fuck with extra fuck.
  • 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.
    • Antonin Bobet in "The Home Crowd Advantage". It works on all the muggles in the vicinity, but has no effect on Peter, who notes that he's built up an immunity on account of how many people have used it on him.
  • Continuity Nod: When Peter meets Guleed at One Hyde Park in The Hanging Tree, she asks him if this is going to be like "the thing with the BMWs", from Body Work. In addition, the events of Moon Over Soho, Whispers Under Ground, and the first three comic stories are cited as reasons why Peter's gotten his own desk at the Outside Inquiry Office — sharing with Guleed and Carey.
  • 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 Del Rey covers of Rivers of London/Midnight Riot and Moon Over Soho 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. Wisely, they later reverted to versions of the UK covers.
    • The Polish cover of Rivers of London has a rather nice, minimalistic silhouette of a man in a fedora lighting a cigarette with dragon-like swirls around. There are no dragons in the book and Peter is nowhere stated to smoke. Or wear a fedora.
    • It's unclear if whoever wrote the blurb for the UK edition of Moon Over Soho has actually read the book. It implies that Peter will be out for revenge for something that happened to his father, when the revelation that his father is directly related to the jazz murders actually gives him the clue he needs to solve it.
      • The North American blurb, meanwhile, gets the first victim's name and instrument wrong (Cyrus Wilkinson, saxophonist, becomes Cyrus Wilkins, jazz drummer), as well as the name of the club he died at (the Spice of Life becomes the "606 Club", of which there is no mention in the book).
    • The blurb on the UK version of Whispers Under Ground 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 US 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.
  • 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. It is not an uncommon attitude among those born and raised in London in the real world.
  • 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. This changes again over the course of book six and seven, as Sahra Guleed becomes a constant companion of Peter during the casework, although not being an actual apprentice at the Folly (in book seven, she is also taught in a Chinese magical tradition by her boyfriend, Michael Cheung). During Operation Jennifer, the hunt for Martin Chorley, the Folly works very closely together with the Met, forming a bigger Team Folly consisting out of DCI Nightingale, DCI Seawoll, DI Stephanopoulos, DC David Carey, DS Sahra Guleed and Peter himself. At the end of book seven, it is strongly hinted at that in the very near future, an active recuitment for new apprentices is going to take place. And there is also Peter's cousin, Abigail Kamara, who unofficially becomes an apprentice to Nightingale and Varvara Sidorovna Tamonina between books six and seven, making her a member of the Folly.
  • 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 and a smile that is just a bit too wide and too full of razor sharp teeth.
  • Dangerous Forbidden Technique: Dissimulo and haemomancy both have very nasty consequences. For that matter, any use of magic that's stronger or sustained for longer than the magician's talent can handle might trigger a stroke or worse.
  • 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 script 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 Moon Over 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.
  • Didn't See That Coming: At the climax of Broken Homes, the Faceless Man's reaction when Peter opens up the Stadtkrone atop Skygarden Tower and releases the power inside it makes it pretty clear he didn't even suspect that was part of the design at all.
  • 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.
  • Dog Food Diet:
    • Referenced when Peter deduces Toby's existence from the fact that the murder victim whose cupboard full of canned dog food he's just discovered wasn't that desperate.
    • Returning to Skygarden to find Zach has ransacked their kitchen cupboards, Peter and Lesley accuse him of this trope. He denies that he ate Toby's canned food, but owns up to having sampled a few of the terrier's biscuits.
  • Domestic Abuse:
    • The Ghost Magistrate is fine with this, all women are shrews after all.
    • Betsy immediately gives Peter a dirty look when Lesley tells her that her face was damaged by oil from a hot chip pan. Lesley hastens to clarify that it was accidental, not this trope.
  • 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, as well as other motivations becoming revealed in the following books.
  • Driven to Suicide:
    • The only other survivor of Mr. Punch's face-destroying magic kills himself between books one and two. Peter takes pains not to let Lesley hear about this.
    • Many of the survivors of Operation Spatchcock, aka the battle at Ettersberg, killed themselves after returning home, not being able to deal with their sustained trauma and survivor's guilt. Belonging to those is also David Mellenby, a good friend of Nightingale's, who could not cope with how the Nazis used his research to conduct horrifying experiments on humans and fae alike.
  • Eagleland Osmosis: In Foxglove Summer, Peter is irritated when Beverley calls the police "the feds". ("The filth" is at least an ENGLISH epithet.)
  • 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-Detecting Dog:
    • Toby often plays this role due to his sensitivity to vestigia.
    • The first book has an off-page moment where a blind man canvassing for charity donations who was the intended next victim of Mr. Punch was saved from the attack by his guide dog.
  • Evil Has a Bad Sense of Humor: The Faceless Man. In book three, 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".
  • Exactly What I Aimed At: At the climax of Broken Homes, Peter chucks at an impello after getting the Faceless Man monologuing, and the Faceless Man tsks at him and says he expected better after effortlessly avoiding it. But Peter actually means to make Skygarden unfold, the way he earlier figured out it was designed to do.
  • Explosive Leash: An associate of the Faceless Man in Lies Sleeping is taken into custody, but is killed by a magical tattoo his boss had applied to him as a precaution that works like a personalized demon trap.
  • Extremely Overdue Library Book: Jason Dunlop’s Principia, taken out of the Bodleian Library by Geoffrey Wheatcroft in 1941.
  • Eye Colour Change:
    • May have happened to Nightingale in relation to his Merlin Sickness: in book 1, Peter describes him as having grey eyes upon meeting him, but says that a portrait he finds in the Folly's carriage house which he assumes to be of Nightingale's father has blue eyes.
    • Zoe Thomas from Foxglove Summer had her eyes change from blue to hazel during her encounter with the fairies as a young girl where her one half-sister was swapped out for a changeling half-sister.
  • 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.
  • Facial Horror: What dissimulo does to its subject's face when the spell expires.
  • Fair Cop: Lesley May in the first book, prior to her injuries. Kimberley Reynolds is another example, and a rare male version is loaned to the MIT from the Mounted Division specifically because he's so good-looking that he can infiltrate a glamorous high-end nightclub without anyone thinking he's a policeman.
  • Fantastic Foxes:
    • Reynard Fossman, a redhaired hunt-saboteur, petty criminal, and skeevy creep from a family of "total Reynards" who may be descended from the original Reynard the Fox. He may or may not be a shapeshifter, but he's known to bite in combat. As far as Cunning Like a Fox goes, Peter has him pegged as one of those people who's really easy to control in an interview, because however clever they are, they want you to see how clever they are.
    • Generally more positively, foxes capable of human speech have a tendency to show up around Abigail.
  • 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 dodgeball 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.
  • Footnote Fever: The Furthest Station includes a series of footnotes explaining British colloquialisms and cultural references in American terms, addressed to Peter's FBI colleague Kimberly Reynolds.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Rivers of London:
      • Nightingale is described as wearing somewhat old-fashioned suits and is exceptionally ignorant of modern technology, and Nicholas Wallpenny describes him as being "touched". In the room that becomes the "tech cave", Peter finds a portrait of a man who he assumes to be Nightingale's father due to the strong resemblance. All of this hints at his Merlin Sickness before it's officially revealed.
      • In a subtle example, Lesley doesn't have to ask whom the 18th century actor whom Henry Pyke's ghost 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.
      • When Peter goes walkabout into the past, he has to change routes while exiting the Folly, as he senses something dark and terrible emanating from beneath the main entryway. Later novels reveal that there's a sealed and heavily-warded chamber beneath the building, implied to contain something very nasty that Nightingale is keeping out of the villains' hands.
      • At the end of book one, a victim of the Pale Lady is discovered. This sets the stage for the second novel's investigation into the Dunlop murder.
    • Moon Over Soho:
      • When Peter meets Simone Fitzwilliam, he describes her accent as "cut-glass to the point of parody", and mentions that he expects a Spitfire to go whizzing overhead when she speaks. As it turns out, Simone happens to be older than she looks...
      • The Faceless Man, upon meeting Peter, assumes he's with the Rivers or from overseas, and is surprised when told Peter is with the police. The reveal in The Hanging Tree that the Faceless Man is a racist who believes "pure English" people are better handily explains this reaction.
    • Whispers Under Ground:
      • 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 reveals that she has switched sides on the promise of Woodville-Gentle's student "The Faceless Man" fixing the magical damage. That scene was likely an early consult.
      • Peter briefly notices Skygarden Tower from Woodville-Gentle's balcony. This housing estate becomes the setting for most of the following novel.
      • Zach mentions having seen a unicorn in Epping Forest, which foreshadows book five.
      • Peter goes into the "tech cave" to find the power switch on, suggesting someone was using the electronics (the switch controls power to everything but the lights). In the next book, Peter discovers that Molly has been using the computer for unknown purposes, but by now she's learned to switch the power off.
      • During Peter's conversation with the ghost of Sir Tyburn, they hear Mr. Punch screaming in the distance, and Sir Tyburn says that Peter's going to have to release Punch one day. In Lies Sleeping, Peter is forced to do exactly that to prevent Chorley from sacrificing Punch to steal his power.
    • Broken Homes also foreshadows Lesley's Face-Heel Turn when both Peter and Lesley are taken prisoner and the mooks are getting ready to kill them; Lesley uncharacteristically joins Peter in begging the guys to call their boss, with her voice noted as having urgency in it. It's clear she has already switched sides at that point, or at least has been given the offer.
    • Foxglove Summer: In Peter's first sit-in as the deputy Family Liaison Officer, DS Cole tells the Marstowes that a child's backpack was found along the side of the road, but it's nothing to do with the current missing girls case as it's been there for at least a decade. The backpack belonged to Zoe Thomas, and she lost it during the incident where she ran away from home with her baby half-sister Nicole, and the baby was swapped out for a changeling.
  • 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." Peter cannot remember what any of the other letters are except for the final S which stands for "Start a log". Even Peter admits that it felt like cheating to make the acronym work.
    • The Hanging Tree indicates that the database for types of illegal drugs is called TICTAC.
  • Gambit Pileup: While most of the books have an element of this with two or three plot threads that pile on together thanks to multiple criminals working against each other while Peter tries untangling the plot, The Hanging Tree ups the ante by putting the Folly in the middle of a clusterfuck of about half-a-dozen different supernatural entities/institutions, all with their own (and opposing) agendas.
  • Gas Leak Cover Up:
    • DCI Nightingale has an arrangement with the London 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.
    • After Peter blows a hole in the cemetery grounds at the Actors' Church, this is the first cover-story he suggests. Nightingale nixes the idea (because there's no gas line in the cemetery), so Peter next suggests they claim it was a long-buried explosive device ... mostly so they can justify digging up the rest of the site, ostensibly to check for more, but actually to look for the skeletal remains he'd come there to find in the first place.
  • Gender Reveal: Ash Thames discovers during sex the woman he picked up in a bar in Moon Over 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.
  • Genius Loci: Spirits of places are pretty important in this series. The various river gods and goddesses are the only kind known to have appeared so far, but there are mentions of other kinds of genii locorum; Lies Sleeping mentions a god of the Yellowstone and the spirit of a battleship killed when the ship was destroyed.
  • Gentleman and a Scholar: DCI Nightingale, right down to the silver-tipped cane and tendency to correct other people's grammar.
  • Gentleman Wizard: Nightingale grew up in an older time and is a wizard, so he fits this very well. That silver-tipped cane? It's his Magic Staff. The further the series goes along, though, it becomes clearer that while Nightingale has peak manners, there is a distinct layer of boldness and cheekiness to him which doesn't fit the "gentleman" part of the trope at all.
  • 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" were 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 were specialists at finding practitioners who might have been real werewolves.
  • Girl of the Week: Beverley in book one, and Simone in book two. Simone is more of a Temporary Love Interest, though, while Beverley returns as a 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.)
    • Very prominent in The October Man. This makes sense; after all, the second novella is told from the point of view of Tobias Winter, a German detective working for the Abteilung KDA (Abteilung für Komplexe und Diffuse Angelegenheiten or Department for Complex and Unspecific Matters) — the German counterpart of the Folly.
  • Gratuitous Latin: 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).
  • 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 Moon Over Soho.
    • Zachary from Whispers Under Ground 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 Summer, Derek is the changeling's biological father, who'd presumably had a liaison with one of The Fair Folk.
  • Hannibal Lecture: Gleefully defied in an early chapter of The Hanging Tree, when Albert Pryce attempts to get under Peter's skin while representing his daughter in the interrogation room. Not only is the supposedly insightful lecture really just a long stream of condescending racism based on facts that exist solely in Pryce's imagination, but Peter doesn't rise to the bait at all; he just sits back and leaves the representative to make an arse of himself. The whole thing ends with Pryce being told to shut the fuck up by his own daughter.
  • 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 at book two has difficulty in burning through a paper target). Also, he gets called out several times that he drives his Jaguar like an absolute maniac, albeit with excellent skill.
  • Hide Your Children: Although it's clear that the adult vampires from book one were the parents of school-age children, Nightingale opts to cut short the search of their suburban home and contain the infection (i.e. burn the place to the ground) before either child's body — whether undead or dead — is actually seen.
  • Hiding in a Hijab: In Broken Homes, while investigating the recently-emptied offices of County Gard, Peter and Lesley run into a Somali cleaning lady who introduces herself as Awa Shambir. Peter notes that her hijab seems a bit too high-quality for someone in her line of work, but at the time nothing comes of it. Not until The Hanging Tree does Peter encounter her again and learn that not only is she neither Somali nor Muslim, but that her name is Lady Caroline Linden-Limmer and she's a practitioner of the Society of the Rose.
  • 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 Under Ground, 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.
    • The chapters of Whispers Under Ground are all named after tube stations.
    • The chapters of Foxglove Summer are all named after police buzzwords.
  • If It's You, It's Okay: Thrust into the earliest memories of London in Lies Sleeping, Peter is grabbed by a Celtic-looking young man who commences to give him a passionate kiss. The instant he realizes that it's actually Beverley Brook in her/his pre-Great Stink incarnation, consistently-hetero Peter's suddenly fine with it.
  • 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.
  • Impractically Fancy Outfit: In Whispers Under Ground Nightingale wears an oyster white Burberry to go into the sewers. Everyone else is wearing appropriate waist-high waders. In The Hanging Tree Peter describes the same coat as the closest thing he has to a high-viz jacket.
  • Improvised Weapon: The murder victim from Whispers Under Ground 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.
  • Informed Ability: Nightingale is consistently portrayed as a near-mythical magical combatant, but up to and including book six we see him throw down in anger only once. (Although the earth does shake when he finally let's loose.) While we do not get to see another earthshaking duel in book seven, Lies Sleeping, Nightingale is throwing around some extremely skilled spells in combat, and in a non-combat situation, he uses a spell which Peter informs us is at least Twentieth Order — which means, really fucking near-mythical.
  • 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.
    • Abigail is very insistent that the railroad-track ghost is a "he", not an "it".
  • Instant Sedation:
    • In Rivers of London, Peter wants something that does this, and 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.
    • In Lies Sleeping, Peter himself is near-instantly sedated by Lesley, abducting him to imprison him at Chorley's and her hiding spot. The used sedative is not known.
  • Interquel: The Furthest Station was published after The Hanging Tree, but is set between it and Foxglove Summer.
  • 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.
    • 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.
  • Jurisdiction Friction: Played with. It's outright averted with the majority of police: 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. However, the Folly (aka the Special Assessment Unit, formerly EU9) occasionally shows itself to be the exception: their methods are so abnormal and their findings are so difficult to report and translate into the current system that they tend to negatively affect the clear up rates and records of any other jurisdiction they work with. While some branches are eager to call them in for anything on the off-chance they can foister their case expenses onto the SAU, others are desperate to avoid them: DCI Seawoll especially dislikes working with the Folly, partially due to personal dislike of the subjects involved and partially because he rarely ever ends up with an official, chargeable suspect to close the case, damaging his success rates.

    L-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.
  • Late-Arrival Spoiler: It is increasingly hard to talk about PC Lesley May after the end of book one without giving away the conclusion, and the rest of the main story arc throughout books one to seven.
  • Legacy Character:
    • The Faceless Man is the second criminal wizard to adopt that role.
    • Reynard Fossman is one of many fae or demi-fae to have assumed the "Reynard the Fox" archetype over the centuries.
  • Lesbian Cop: Detective Sergeant Miriam Stephanopoulos, 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 Stephanopoulos? 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 believes that anything that is not on the verge of spontaneous combustion does not have enough chili peppers in it.
  • Let's Get Dangerous!: Lies Sleeping could be considered an example of this for the Metropolitan Police as a whole: although obstructionist and willfully-blind about magic in previous novels, once the Faceless Man's true level of threat is acknowledged and his real identity is known, the organization puts all the resources Peter's been pining for the past six novels at the Folly's disposal so the manhunt can proceed.
  • 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:
    • 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.
    • 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 Moon Over Soho. Just to add to the Humiliation Conga, it was dressed up in a turban and used as a fortune telling machine.
  • 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.
  • Mage Tower:
    • In the third book, Peter refers to the Faceless Man's abandoned Elaborate Underground Base as an inverted wizard's tower.
    • In Foxglove Summer, Peter refers to Hugh Oswald's house as a wizard tower; this one's based on the Real Life Folly of Herefordshire.
    • Lies Sleeping mentions that the Society of the Wise was headquartered in a tower on the grounds of a duke's country house before the Folly was built.
  • 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 1960s.
    • In Broken Homes it seems this process is accelerating. Particularly given the conclusion where a massive magical collection device is discharged over London.
    • It's also been suggested that maybe Nightingale just assumed the magic went away, and stopped being as assiduous in investigating it. In Foxglove Summer Peter says the reason "Falcon" (weird stuff) cases are on the increase might be because of an increase in magic, or might be because he actually knows how to report them.
    • It's implied that this return of magic is connected to the Merlin Sickness Nightingale and the Night Witch have.
  • 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 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 staves.
  • Magic Versus Science: There appears at first to be an element of the "Magic as EMP" trope at work; using magic will cause any microprocessor-based devices in the vicinity to break irreparably. However, repeated exposure to magic will have basically the same effect on the human brain eventually, and Peter's theory is that technology becomes more susceptible the more closely it resembles having a mind of its own (and breaks immediately, instead of on long exposure, because the human body has evolved defenses against magic that inorganic technology doesn't possess... yet). In general, magic and science get along quite well; the organised study of magic originates in the setting with Isaac Newton, and Peter frequently attempts to fit magic into an empiricist, rationalist framework.
  • Making a Splash: The Rivers can control their respective watercourses' flow, both consciously and as an unconscious effect of their emotional state.
    • In Rivers of London, Beverley Brook calls up a flood to extinguish the Covent Garden fires.
    • In Broken Homes, Nicky is implied to have drowned one of the tree-cutters on dry land, to avenge Sky.
    • In The Hanging Tree, Tyburn likewise appears to have flooded much of her upscale street in retaliation for the Faceless Man's siccing a sniper on either her or her daughter.
  • Male Gaze: The books are from Peter's perspective, so it's Justified.
  • Mama Bear: Tyburn, as abrasive as she often is to Peter, genuinely loves her husband and children, and as illustrated in The Hanging Tree, anyone attempting to harm them is making the worst mistake of their life. Unless they're the Faceless Man, it will also be the last.
  • Masquerade: As per standard in this genre, created more through public indifference and traditional discretion. As of book four, however, it is becoming increasingly shaky and may not be sustainable for much longer.
  • Meaningful Name: Melissa in Foxglove Summer, who has an unexplained connection to her beehive, has a name that literally means "honeybee".
  • 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.
    • In book six, some enigmatic Americans from a rival Newtonian magical tradition try to play this role in the search for Reynard. Played with in that they're off their turf and badly out of their league when the Faceless Man shows up.
  • The Mentor: Nightingale fulfills this role to Peter. Although he verges on Obsolete Mentor a couple of times, especially when it comes to modern police methods. 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. The fourth book reveals that he's not the only one this happened to. The Night Witch, Varvara Sidorovna Tamonina, was born in the 1920s and began reverse-aging on August Bank Holiday 1966. A short moment on Ben Aaronovitch's personal blog heavily implies that Nightingale began reverse-aging on the same date, but only truly acknowledged and/or realised this fact years later.
  • Minor Crime Reveals Major Plot: The Hanging Tree starts off with Peter having to fulfill his owed favour to Lady Ty by making sure her daughter isn't implicated in a suspicious death by drug overdose, which is tied into an investigation of how the teenagers at the party in question got access to a flat in the highly-secure One Hyde Park. This leads to the identity of the Faceless Man being exposed.
  • Mistaken for Gay:
    • Peter, while ghost-hunting for Nicholas Wallpenny in the first book, gets this from a group of people walking by who assume him to be waiting for an outdoor liaison. This is immediately followed by...
    • 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". Up to and including book seven, Lies Sleeping, this trope has to remain ambiguous — there has yet to be any clear mention or at least implication of a romantic or sexual orientation or relationship of Nightingale's towards any gender. It is entirely possible that he turns out to be gay in canon.
  • 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.
    • Another at least somewhat villainous example at the climax of Lies Sleeping, when Lesley simply kills Martin Chorley, ethically challenged magician supreme, via putting a bullet through his head.
  • 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 downsides of Peter having sex with Beverley 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 pickaxe 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.
  • Never Heard That One Before: In The Furthest Station, Peter works with a police team led by a Detective Inspector whose surname happens to be Columbo, and one of the team members warns him not to make any of the obvious jokes because DI Columbo has heard them already.
  • 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: Whatever happened to Peter and Lesley during their probationary training that involved "the dwarf, the showgirl, and the fur coat".
  • Noodle Incident: "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." It gets mentioned again in The Hanging Tree, in which Peter acknowledges that using the word "Krynoid" in his report was probably a mistake, and in The Furthest Station, in which he mentions meeting a ghost under Kew Gardens, and says he would like to learn more about her if they ever let him back in.
  • 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.
  • Oh, Crap!: In The Hanging Tree, Peter is at Martin Chorley's house doing a sweep for occult material, and while talking with the homeowner, he notices that the man is wearing a very expensive mechanical watch, like what might be chosen by a practitioner who's trying to avoid magic-vulnerable microchips, and realizes that he's almost certainly alone with the Faceless Man.
  • Old Cop, Young Cop: Nightingale and Peter.
  • Old-Fashioned Copper: DCI Seawoll is this sort. Before he meets Nightingale, some of Peter's superiors are too, and aren't impressed with his tendency to get distracted. Subverted in Lies Sleeping; Peter says that while he cultivates the image, Seawoll is secretly "as modern a copper as had ever authorised a community outreach programme going forward".
  • One Steve Limit: Zack the half-fey shares a first name with DCI Thompson, head of the Jerry Johnson murder investigation. An aversion, as even when the Chief Inspector tells Peter to call him Zack, Grant is rank-conscious enough that that ain't happening.
  • On Three: In "The Home Crowd Advantage", Peter challenges a hostile wizard to a duel, to begin on a count of three. Then he tasers him after "One".
  • Only Bad Guys Call Their Lawyers: Realistically averted. Most suspects have either their own lawyers or Legal Aid.
  • Our Ghosts Are Different: Different enough that Peter and Abigail have invented a two-axis classification system, measuring their intensity (how "solid" they appear) from 1 to 10 annies and their volition (how self-aware they are) in three categories: Looper (just a psychic echo endlessly repeating an action); Silmulacrum (a bit more aware of its surroundings, but limited — kind of like a video game character); and Entity (an actual personality you can have a conversation with). Their intensity increases if they can feed on magic and Peter says even the Entities wouldn't pass the Turing test. Whether they're actually the spirits of the dead, or just a Living Memory, is something nobody in the books is prepared to make a decision on, or has any idea how to test.
  • 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 Faceless Man. Hence the name.
    • Can also, in a more physical way, be applied to Lesley May, who from book six onwards is able to shapeshift her face.
  • 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.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: In The Hanging Tree when Peter has an actual conversation with the Faceless Man, he turns out to be a patronisingly polite racist who explains that it's not Peter's fault he's not properly English, but...
  • 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. In The Hanging Tree a confirmation of his identity is evidence that the suspect is a massive Inklings geek.
  • 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 Stephanopoulos 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 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 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: 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.
  • Private Military Contractors: The American counterpart to the Folly turns out to be one of these, Alderman Technical Solutions, with a tendency not to worry about things like "jurisdiction boundaries" or "licensed to carry firearms in the middle of London".
  • Psychic-Assisted Suicide:
    • The Big Bad of Moon Over 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 Moon Over 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 five.

    Q-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 Under Ground.
  • 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 a London A-To-Z 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.
  • Really Gets Around: Derek Lacey in Foxglove Summer. There are four young girls who are important to the narrative, and they all turn out to be half-sisters with him as the father. Even the fae. The entirety of the plot probably wouldn't have happened if he'd just learned to keep his zip closed.
  • Reduced to Ratburgers: How Foxglove and her two companions survived the interval between their service under the two Faceless Men: trapped in a cellar, licking moisture off the walls and eating rats and insects which they lured into their prison. For fifteen years.
  • 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.
  • Repetitive Name: Broken Homes has an instructor at the Hendon police college who glories in the name of Douglas Douglas.
  • Rooftop Confrontation: The climax of Moon Over Soho and the climax of Broken Homes both take place on different rooftops. The Faceless Man must enjoy this trope. Even the climax of Lies Sleeping partly takes place on, if not on a roof, certainly an elevated outside part of a building.
  • 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".) Played with in Foxglove Summer, where Peter discovers UFO sightings in the area are actually magic, and decides to go along with the ufologists rather than try to explain to them what's really happening. He calls this "the reverse Nigel Kneale", as a reference to the "magic beings are actually aliens" theme in Quatermass. In The Hanging Tree, when Agent Reynolds calls her new position "the X-Files", Peter asks her the question, and she also says "Not yet."
      • In The October Man, protagonist Tobias Winter answers the aliens question by joking "there's a secret branch of the Luftwaffe that deals with all that".
    • Peter quips about police having a "suspicious behaviour bingo card" early in Whispers Under Ground, then keeps that motif going for the rest of the novel.
    • Another Foxglove Summer-specific running gag is countryside gastropubs that are keen to emphasise how local all their food is. At one point Peter goes into the town in search of a sausage that doesn't come with a family tree.
  • 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 of London do not get any better in Moon Over Soho. As of book 3, she's getting better at letting people see her without her mask, but things have not improved much. 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. In book six, Lesley suddenly turns up with her face not only too perfectly healed, but also being able to shapeshift it. It has yet to be revealed how the extensive damage was repaired — and more specifically, by whom.
    • In Moon Over Soho, Nightingale is still suffering from his wounds from the previous book, 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.
  • 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. Subverted with country scenery, as Peter can barely tell a pine tree from an oak.
  • Separated by a Common Language: FBI agent Reynolds looks blank when Zach uses the slang term "ends", so the group runs through several British-slang synonyms ("patch", "manor", etc) before hitting upon "hood", which she recognizes.
  • Series Continuity Error:
    • Abigail Kamara's father is "Adam" in Moon Over Soho and "Alfred" in Whispers Under Ground.
    • In "The Home Crowd Advantage", Peter mentions an ambulance hijacking as one of the reasons he's not involved in security for the Olympics. However, the official chronology places the short story between the first two books, Rivers of London and Moon Over Soho, when the ambulance hijacking occurs in the latter book.
  • 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 WWII Nazis.
  • Shout-Out: Has its own page.
  • Shown Their Work: And how! Architecture, obscure London history, and police organizational structure for the most part, with a smattering of Latin and Shout Outs to old-time British intelligentsia thrown in.
  • 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.
  • Skeleton Motif: The badge of the Skeleton Army is an important clue in tracking the spectral serial killer.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Henry Pyke, or at least his ghost, seems to have a very inflated opinion of his own acting skills in life. Barely anyone seems to have heard of or missed him.
  • 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. After she finds out magic is real and gets assigned to those cases, she stops, as she figures if she's going to be involved with the real-life X-Files, she might as well embrace looking like Agent Scully.
    • Minor character PC Omer Kubat is so good-looking that fellow police never believe he's police, even in full uniform. He gets regularly poached for undercover work.
  • 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.
  • Spell My Name with an "S":
    • Lesley's name is spelled "Leslie" in the North American printings of Rivers of London and Moon Over Soho.
    • DI Stephanopoulos' name has also been spelled "Stephanopoulis".
  • 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. In Lies Sleeping, this changes — not only does Peter recieve the honor of a capital The Starling, but also earns the extra title The Herald of the Morning.
  • Spot of Tea: In book three, Peter's refusal of tea when he meets the Quiet Folk sparks widespread muttering and consternation.
  • Spotting the Thread: In The Hanging Tree, the sight of an expensive mechanical watch on Martin Chorley's wrist — one without microchips that can be destroyed by magic — tips Peter off that Chorley is almost certainly the Faceless Man.
  • The Starscream: Tyburn is implied to be one of these to Mama Thames in Rivers of London, and in Moon Over 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.
  • Stealth Pun: When Chorley demands that Peter tell him "where's Punch?", Peter replies "Right behind you", and then punches the villain when he turns round to look.
  • 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 Moon Over 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 "The 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.
  • Summon Bigger Fish: In the climax of Rivers of London, Peter defeats Mr. Punch by giving him to a more powerful spirit — he first tries the Old Bailey, but when Punch drags them into a past London before the Old Bailey existed, Peter brings him before the spirit of the River Thames. Father Thames has Mr. Punch staked on London Bridge as a Human Sacrifice.
  • 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. Somewhat confirmed in Lies Sleeping through Sahra Guleed being taught a traditional Chinese form of magical martial arts by Legendary Swordsman Michael Cheung and being seen using reality-defying jumps and moves in physical combat.
  • 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.
    • In the fourth book, the Night Witch 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 it's 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.
  • Taking the Heat: Olivia, for her girlfriend Phoebe.
  • Talking Animal: London secretly harbors a population of large talking foxes, who strike up a favors-for-cheese-puffs relationship with Abigail Kamara. They evidently think of themselves as "spies".
  • Team Pet: Toby the Dog.
  • Technologically Blind Elders: Nightingale knows little to nothing about the modern, computerized systems used by the police. If he's motivated, though, he can pick up on things quite quickly, such as how to use an Airwave radio or using Peter's flatscreen TV for watching rugby. By Lies Sleeping, he's learned how to skype.
  • That Thing Is Not My Child!: In Foxglove Summer, Veronica is determined to return whatever came back from fairyland to the fae. Even once Peter explains to her that this is her biological daughter and it's the girl she was raising for eleven years that was a changeling, she's understandably adamant that she wants her real daughter back.
  • There Is Another:
    • Nightingale thought he was the last active master Newtonian practitioner in the UK. Then Peter ran into the Faceless Man...
    • The Society of the Rose, a line of female practitioners who passed the teaching of magic from mother to daughter, comes to light in The Hanging Tree.
  • 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.
  • Throwing Your Sword Always Works: In The Hanging Tree, the ghost of William of Tyburn throws his sword and impales a sniper in the heart.
  • Tomato in the Mirror:
    • Peter has a bad moment in the first novel, when he concludes someone involved in the investigation — maybe even him — must have been "sequestered" by Punch without realizing it. He can't work up the nerve to check his own teeth in a mirror, so he closes his eyes and feels that they haven't been shattered by dissimulo. Even that doesn't mean he's not possessed, only that Punch hasn't changed his face yet.
    • 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.
  • To Unmasque the World: Getting magic out in the open and setting up a proper official system of regulating it and magical creatures is Lady Tyburn's goal. With her at the head of that system, naturally. She is rather miffed when Peter starts proving an obstacle to that goal, setting up new covert arrangements and shoring up the faltering Masquerade. Ironically, Peter believes in preparing for the end of the masquerade too, he just doesn't think someone as authoritarian and autocratic as Tyburn ought to be in charge of it; especially since their first interaction was Tyburn trying to mindrape him into being her servant.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: The blurbs of Moon Over Soho, UK and US, spoil, although not in the details and in the former's case rather inaccurately, that Peter's father, Richard "Lord" Grant, has a connection with the dying jazz musicians, a fact which is not revealed until over halfway through the book and is clearly meant as a surprise.
  • Transgender: Lady Caroline Linden-Limmer. Peter has to explain to Nightingale what her having been granted a Gender Recognition Certificate at the age of 18 actually means.
  • 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.
  • Two Aliases, One Character: In Rivers of London, it turns out that Nicholas Wallpenny, the ghost that Peter encounters at the beginning, was actually a guise of Henry Pyke, which is why he was so loath to appear in front of Nightingale, who might have figured it out.
  • 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.)
  • Unreliable Narrator: Downplayed. Peter is very good and accurate when telling us about the plot and his general thoughts, but his deeper emotions are usually kept hidden, even from himself, until moments like the tree-bashing in Foxglove Summer when it all comes pouring out.
  • Unusual Euphemism: From Foxglove Summer, regarding the absent neighbour of the Marstowe family, a lecturer at Birmingham University:
    Apparently he'd planned to move his family out to Rushpool, but his wife divorced him when she found him with an undergraduate discussing Borges' pivotal role in the development of post-colonial literature with the aid of a feather duster, a latex vest and a tub of Ben & Jerry's Chocolate Brownie flavoured ice cream.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Name: The Folly is officially Economic and Specialist Crime Unit 9, and later the Special Assessment Unit (SAU). An invoked example, as the Met brass are rather embarrassed about their "magic cops" and so conceal the unit's existence by shoehorning it into the blandest category they can find every time they do a reorganization.
  • Urban Fantasy: It's about a 21st century cop who uses magic and investigates supernatural incidents.
  • Useless Security Camera:
    • In Rivers of London, 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 Under Ground.
  • 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 Jerkass 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 way.
  • The Voiceless: Molly has never been heard to speak once. Peter's not even sure if she can.
  • Vomiting Cop: Subverted in-universe 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.
  • Wainscot Society: The Quiet People, who live and work in isolation but get their groceries delivered by Tesco's.
  • Wasn't That Fun?: The youngest child of the German tourist family wants to get washed out of the burning store by Beverley's called-up waters again.
  • Watch the Paint Job: That detailed description of how cool Beverley's new car is? You knew it would end up in this trope. Rioters 1: Car 0.
  • Waxing Lyrical:
    • At the start of Whispers Under Ground, when DI Stephanopoulos finds out that the murder victim was in fact a student at St Martin's College, she can't resist quoting "Common People".
      "He certainly had a thirst for knowledge. He was a student at St. Martin's College."
    • In Foxglove Summer, Peter muses about actions:
      "The police never saw a noun they didn't want to turn into a verb, so it quickly became "to action", as in you action me to undertake a Falcon assessment, I action a Falcon assessment, a Falcon assessment has been actioned and we all action in a yellow submarine, a yellow submarine, a yellow submarine."
  • Weasel Co-Worker: Investigations have to be paid for. Which means that police try to dump them on other departments.
  • Wham Episode:
    • The Hanging Tree, in which the Faceless Man's identity, Lesley's restored face and possible continuing link to Mr. Punch, and the existence of not one, but two rival Newtonian magic traditions are all exposed.
    • Lies Sleeping: The full-out hunt for the Faceless Man takes place in form of the biggest joint operation the series has seen in all the books up to this date, and the core conflict of Lesley and Peter is deeply examined. It all ends in Lesley becoming a murderer through shooting Martin Chorley, thus killing the Big Bad from book two to seven but also destroying all of Peter's plans and hopes for a juidicary trial for Chorley and Lesley's possible redemption in an extremely cruel fashion. Through this, she also effects Peter's subsequent suspension from the Met. Additionally, Punch's backstory is revealed, there is a new river goddess, Beverley is pregnant, Peter makes another trip back into London's memory landscape, and much more.
  • Wham Line:
    • The very last line of Moon Over Soho. "Fuck me, you can do magic."
    • "If it's all the same to you, sir, I think I'm going to have to see this through. Insh'allah."
    • "If you are going to shoot, then shoot."
  • Whole Plot Reference: The first book, of Punch and Judy. It's both deliberately invoked and extremely plot-relevant.
  • 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."
  • A Wizard Did It: Namedropped, discussed, and justified in Foxglove Summer. When Dominic, a local DC in Herefordshire, asks Peter about magical phenomena, Peter dodges answering fully and responds that the things he investigates often actually have a perfectly rational explanation. When Dominic finds out Peter can do magic by witnessing him cast a werelight, he quotes Peter's earlier answer, but as Peter and Beverly point out to Dominic, in a world where magic is real, A Wizard Did It is a perfectly rational explanation.
  • Wizard Duel:
    • Antonin Bobet attempts to provoke one in "The Home Crowd Advantage".
    • Nightingale vs Varvara Sidorovna Tamonina in Broken Homes.
    • Nightingale and the Faceless Man finally get to butt heads in The Hanging Tree, although it's more a running pursuit than a straight-out duel. Other spells get tossed back and forth between Nightingale and some newly-introduced characters.
    • Nightingale vs the Faceless Man in Lies Sleeping. We even get two of them — but they are both mostly kept off-screen. They both end with Chorley escaping Nightingale by keeping him occupied and held up through diversions (such as hostages, or attacking civilians) so that he can scarper. This heavily implies that in a staight duel, Nightingale would have been able to overpower and arrest Chorley by the end of the book.
    • Having Peter ride out Nightingale's duels by diving for cover or veering off to pursue a lesser antagonist, thus saving his neck but missing his chance to recount precisely what's going on, has become a Running Gag by book six and is continued throughout book seven.
    • From book six onwards, Peter also gets to throw around more spells and engage in more direct, but rather short duels. He goes up several times against Lesley May in The Hanging Tree and Lies Sleeping; Peter even courageously tries to knock the far more powerful Chorley off his feet in Lies Sleeping with a spell, but his attempt is thwarted as Chorley simply reflects the spell — it hits Peter instead.
  • 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.
  • Working for a Body Upgrade: Lesley May pulls a Face–Heel Turn and goes to work for the Big Bad in exchange for having her face restored.
  • "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.
    • Short stories "The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Granny" and "A Rare Book of Cunning Device".
  • 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 Have to Say Anything: Nightingale forgets the modern version of the caution when arresting Varvara in Broken Homes, leading to Lesley having to shout it from where her and Peter are hiding. He remembers it in The Hanging Tree when he arrests Reynard Fossman.
  • You Do NOT Want To Know: Whatever it was Nightingale found in that room during Moon Over 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).
    "Shouldn't I–"
    "No," Nightingale said. "There's nothing in there that it would profit you to see. Trust me in this, Peter, as master to apprentice, as a man who's sworn to protect and nurture you. I don't want you going in there."
  • Your Head Asplode: Happens to one of the Hare Krishnas in book one.

Alternative Title(s): Midnight Riot, Moon Over Soho, Whispers Under Ground, Broken Homes, Foxglove Summer, The Hanging Tree, The Furthest Station, Lies Sleeping, False Value

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