As promised yesterday, this week’s topic will be covered by the wonderful E.L. Tettensor as part of the blog tour for her new book, Master of Plagues, second entry to the Nicolas Lenoir series. I loved the first book, Darkwalker, and reviewed it here. Thank you so much for taking part of our weekly fun.
This week’s topic is LAW ENFORCEMENT
Seems odd to think that in fantasy cities in which entire economies revolve around crime there is room for the men in blue (or crimson, or whatever). But the law does the best it can, even when faced with magic, mystical creatures, or rogue deities.
I don’t know much about law enforcement, historical or contemporary, but I knew that I wanted my protagonist, Inspector Nicolas Lenoir, to be part of a formal police service, rather than a lone wolf. So when it came time to create the Kennian Metropolitan Police, I was faced with the choice of either researching policing in early industrial Europe, or just letting fly with my imagination. In the end, I opted for a blend of the two. After doing a bit of light research (emphasis on the light), I used the example of London’s famous police service as a sketch – and then proceeded to colour outside the lines.
The result was a police force in the throes of a slow and painful pivot from City Guard to something more robust, something better suited to the new realities of a city facing an unprecedented period of urbanisation. When we first encounter the Kennian Metropolitan Police, the institution is already over a decade old. Its star inspector, Nicolas Lenoir, has done a lot to professionalise the force, but it still has a long way to go. The “hounds”, as city police are known, are in woefully short supply, and most of them have minimal training. Corruption and incompetence are rife. Capable officers like Sergeants Kody and Izar are hard to come by; capable inspectors even more so, at least as far as Lenoir is concerned. Chief Reck seems to agree, since he throws the toughest, most important cases Lenoir’s way.
The hounds have an uneasy relationship with ordinary Kennians, who still aren’t used to the idea of what seems to them like a quasi-military force patrolling their streets. Although the watchmen carry only a truncheon, senior officers are issued sabres and flintlock pistols (except Sergeant Kody, who prefers to carry a crossbow, not trusting the unreliable flintlocks not to blow up in his face.) Kennians are suspicious of these well-armed men of unproven worth, and not always happy to cooperate. That goes double for the residents of the slums, especially the Adali, a race of foreigners who are all too accustomed to being the first port of call for any police investigation.
Readers familiar with early nineteenth century London will certainly recognise the Met as the scaffolding behind the KMP. There’s nothing unusual in that; in fact, the Metropolitan Police Service has served as the inspiration for dozens, if not hundreds, of fantasy novels – including the first instalment on my list.
So without further ado, here it is:
The Peter Grant books by Ben Aaronovitch. Rivers of London kicks off the series, introducing us to Grant, “Police Constable, apprentice wizard and all round nice guy”. Grant is on the career path to nowhere when, following a surprise encounter with a ghost, he’s recruited into a special branch of the Metropolitan Police that deals with the supernatural. Four novels later, he’s still chasing gods and ghosts. Carry on, Peter.
The Garrett, P.I. series by Glen Cook. Classic P.I. noir in the vein of Dashiell Hammett, but set in a secondary world. The city of TunFaire has elves, vampires, trolls – you name it, not to mention a corrupt and inefficient police force in the Watch.
And of course, no list of law enforcement in fantasy would be complete without mentioning Terry Pratchett’s Discworld. Ankh-Morpork’s City Watch definitely influenced my thinking in designing the Metropolitan Police, and particularly the constabulary system set up in the outlying villages. In fact, I think Constable Crears’s red hair might be an unconscious homage to Captain Carrot Ironfoundersson. To be sure, though, Lenoir is no Sam Vimes!
About the Author
E.L. Tettensor likes her stories the way she likes her chocolate: dark, exotic, and with a hint of bitterness. She has visited more than fifty countries on five continents, and brought a little something back from each to press inside the pages of her books. She is also the author of the Bloodbound series, writing as Erin Lindsey. She lives with her husband in Bujumbura, Burundi.