Broken Homes Book Summary and Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of Broken Homes

London police constable and apprentice wizard Peter Grant investigates multiple crimes that seem to all lead to the evil magician known as the Faceless One. Broken Homes is the fourth in the Rivers of London series. It follows the adventures of Peter Grant, a police constable who works for The Folly, the department of the London Police that deals with magic and the supernatural.
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Previously Grant and the Folly had confronted an evil magic practitioner known only as The Faceless Man. He escaped, leaving few clues to his motives and whereabouts.

This book starts with Grant and Nightingale investigating a car accident involving a person of interest in the Faceless Man investigation. The accident seems ordinary but there is blood in the trunk of the car and a search turns up the murdered body of a woman nearby. Although there is no evidence of magic at first, we later learn that the woman was a ‘chimera', that is human-animal hybrid created through magic by the Faceless Man. The driver claims to have no memory of anything.

Later they're called in to look into a case in which a man burnt his hands performing a basic but real magic trick for his grandson. He admits to learning the trick for “lux” as a child from his mother. Grant and Nightingale wonder if she was a unregistered practitioner, possibly one of the refugees that fled the continent during World War II.

Shortly after they are called on a second suspicious death in which a man threw himself in front of a train. He was a town planner working on a project involving the Skygarden housing estate, a large and architecturally contentious building in London. CCTV footage suggests he may have been mind controlled.

Meanwhile the god and goddess of the River Thames organize a Spring Ball.The crew of the Folly are asked to be on hand to police mixed mundane and magic crowds, and while there Grant runs into Beverly Brook, a river goddess who he had flirted with previously but not heard of in a while. Zach, a half-fairy who helped them in the previous book also shows up and he flirts with Lesley who is still suffering from the massive facial damage she sustained in the first book.

The Lost and Stolen Artifacts Database of the London police turns up a German language book on magic from a local book dealer. An investigation reveals the seller to be a known thief and Grant goes to his house to question him, but finds him dead, burnt from the inside out probably by the Faceless Man. He also spots a leaflet for a National Trust building and after checking into it he determines that they were recently burgled.

The burgled building built by a famous architect, Erik Stromberg, the same architect who built the Skygarden. Grant remembers the connection to the train suicide and immediately suspects there is more to this and Nightingale agrees.

Grant and Lesley are sent undercover as new tenants in the building. Grant, who originally studied to be an architect before deciding on police work, notices many oddities in the construction right away, though he can't find any magical residue. He also learns that the building was listed as a landmark despite its recent construction and it not being considered a particularly good example of the architect's work. Speculation by the tenants is that it had something to do with the trees growing in its central garden, much to the frustration of developers who would love to evict them and build something more valuable on the land.

Grant visits the garden and runs into several supernatural beings of his acquaintance, including Beverly Brook. He also meets Sky, a wood nymph who is apparently connected to the trees in the garden.

After further investigation into the building and its unusual features, Grant comes to the conclusion that the building is designed to concentrate magical power. There is a central tuned mass damper, which normally functions to prevent a building that tall from swaying in the wind, but the way it has been designed makes it obvious that it was created to concentrate the magic. There is also a glass structure at the top called a Stadtkronen, which Grant and Nightingale speculate is supposed to open up and channel the released energy. They can't find actual traces of any magical activity in the building.

Lelsey and the half fairy Zach start seeing each other regularly, somewhat to Grant's annoyance since Zach is prone to showing up unannounced and eating every bit of food available.

A second German magic book is retrieved, this one on industrial uses of magic and German theories about magic being extractable from normal daily human activity. Grant realizes that if that's true then Skygarden has probably collected decades of magic by now.

He and Lesley poke around the building further and find an odd array of trays in the basement, there is magical residue that smells of the Faceless Man but even Nightingale can't guess what the true purpose of the set up is. It does mean that they are on the right path, though.

The next morning Grant wakes up to a woman's scream. He rushes downstairs to find a man with a chainsaw cutting down the trees in the garden. He flees, but Sky is dead already. Several of her supernatural cousins show up and vow revenge, but Nightingale convinces them to let the police do their job.

The chainsaw attacker soon turns up dead anyway, drowned on dry land and Grant suspects one of the river goddesses. He and Lesley follow a lead to a small farm and find a barn full of what appear to be demon traps. Demon traps being magical booby traps that store magical energy from torture and suffering and release it in a deadly fashion. Then they recognize their similarity to the trays they found at Skygarden. They call in Nightingale who arrives just in time to rescue them from one of the Faceless Man's associates, a female magician called Varvara Sidororovna, also known as the Night Witch.

Nightingale subdues her and under questioning they learn that like him she fought in WWII, and that she was a fixer for the Faceless Man. She also reveals that in 1966 she started aging backwards just like Nightingale. With few other choices they imprison her in the Folly for the time being.

Lesley and Grant return to Skygarden and find one of the neighbors leaving in a hurry. Suspicious, Grant checks her apartment and finds explosives set strategically against one of the building's supporting pillars. He deduces that the Faceless Man is aiming to bring the tower down to release the stored magic, and then capture the energy in the jury-rigged tray system.

Grant calls the bomb into headquarters and begins to evacuate the higher floors. When he checks the roof he finds the Faceless Man there with the detonator. Grant uses a magical shot to aimed at the Stadtkronen, cracking it open so the magical energy will be released rather than caught in the traps.

The Faceless Man, unaware of the Stadkronen's true purpose detonates the explosives and leaps from the roof, using a magic field to slow his descent. Grant jumps after him and maneuvers so he will land on top when they hit the ground, he succeeds in restraining the Faceless Man but then feels someone behind him shock him with a taser. As he loses consciousness he recognizes Lesley's voice.

Over the following weeks the explosion is blamed on greedy developers and sent to the Serious Fraud Office, but most of the other investigations end with few satisfactory answers for the conventional police. The Faceless Man and Lesley remain at large.

Unable to supervise her 24/7 Nightingale fashions a bracelet for Varvara Sidororovna that will serve as both a magic damper and a electronic tracker.

Grant follows up with the grandfather from the beginning of the book, who burnt his hands casting "lux". He is delighted to repeat the spell, this time perfectly, saying that suddenly two weeks ago it was like "someone turned the lights on"

The book ends with Grant visiting Zach, who claims not to have seen Lesley since the incident. Zach wonders if she might not actually be undercover spying on the Faceless Man. But Grant's theory is that the Faceless Man lured her over with a promise to fix the damage to her face. He asks Zach to tell him if she makes contact, but Grant knows Zach wouldn't snitch on her.
Best part of story, including ending: The idea of magic mixing with architecture is pretty cool, and Aaronovitch makes the architectural details very believable by combining the magic stuff with real modernist theories about improving people through their living spaces.

Best scene in story: The confrontation between the Night Witch and Nightingale was pretty great, very explosive and showing what a badass Nightingale actually is under his impeccable outfits and good manners.

Opinion about the main character: Grant is still a compelling POV character, smart and brave enough that you root for him while still very fallible. It would be nice for him to sort out his love life and date Beverly Brook already,

The review of this Book prepared by Maria Nunez a Level 11 Prairie Warbler scholar

Chapter Analysis of Broken Homes

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Plot & Themes

Composition of Book Descript. of chases or violence 30%planning/preparing, gather info, debate puzzles/motives 30%Feelings, relationships, character bio/development 20%Descript. of society, phenomena (tech), places 20% FANTASY or SCIENCE FICTION?    -   fantasy story on current Earth Magical Beings/Mental/Magical/Powers    -   Yes magical powers:    -   detective fighting magic or monsters Is this an adult or child's book?    -   Adult or Young Adult Book

Main Character

Identity:    -   Male Profession/status:    -   police/lawman Age:    -   20's-30's If magical mental powers:    -   can cast many different spells


Earth setting:    -   current (early 21st century) Takes place on Earth?    -   Yes

Writing Style

Accounts of torture and death?    -   moderately detailed references to deaths How much dialogue?    -   roughly even amounts of descript and dialog

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Ben Aaronovitch Books Note: the views expressed here are only those of the reviewer(s).
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