broken homes

Book Four in the PC Grant series continues where the previous left off in terms of the plot concerning the Faceless Man, the dark magician who has already tried to kill Peter Grant. A car crash just outside of Crawley turns up a suspect, Robert Weil, already on Grant’s list of FM’s suspected associates, known as the Little Crocodiles. Human blood found in Weil’s car lead the local police, Grant and Nightingale in tow, to a dumping ground where they find the body of a woman, her face mutilated to avoid identification.

To add to PC Grant’s workload, another potential Little Crocodile goes under a train at Baker Street and the CCTV shows him acting decidedly dodgy just before: almost as though he were under a glamour that forced him to jump. The investigation leads him to a housing estate in Elephant and Castle, designed by eccentric German architect Erik Stromberg, and the sensible decision seems to be for Peter and Lesley May to move in…

For some reason, Stromberg had designed a hexagonal central shaft that ran up the middle of the tower so that for the first few years you could lean over and stare all the way down to the basement level. Since it didn’t function as a light-well and it was ten times wider than needed for the building’s tuned mass damper, it was a bizarre bit of architectural whimsy even for the late 1960s. The tenants soon put it to good use as a combination waste disposal area and emergency urinal and after two suicides and a notorious murder case, the council installed heavy duty wire mesh to seal it off from the walkways.

As well as the strange architectural quirks of the building, there are strange goings on amongst the residents, those who are left after the council have enticed many of them to leave. Becoming more reminiscent of the tower block in JG Ballard’s High-Rise, the reason for the Faceless Man’s interest only becomes clear at the climax of the novel as, for once, it seems that Peter is one step ahead for once.

I enjoyed the return to the main storyline with the Faceless Man, and Aaronovitch has a great cast of characters now. There are frequent ‘cameos’ throughout this book, not all of them important to the overall story but adding to the enjoyment of the reader. There is an interesting twist at the end which has me keen to get onto the next book asap and I finally feel like Peter is getting to grips both with magic and the ordinary policing side – at least he seemed less reckless in this instalment, though he still managed to get into plenty of hairy situations. It will be interesting to see how he moves on from the final events of this novel…




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