Foxglove Summer, Ben Aaronovitch

Foxglove Summer, Ben AaronovitchFoxglove Summer by Ben Aaronovitch

First Published: 2014

Pages: 394 (Waterstone’s Hardback with bonus short story)
Form: Novel
Series: Rivers of London/Peter Grant #5

Rating: 5/55/55/55/55/5

When two young girls go missing in rural Herefordshire PC Peter Grant is sent out of London to check that nothing supernatural is involved. It’s purely routine, Nightingale thinks he’ll be done in less than a day.

But Peter’s never been one to walk away from someone in trouble, so when nothing overtly magical turns up he volunteers his services to the local police who need all the help they can get.

But because the universe likes a joke as much as the next sadistic megalomaniac, Peter soon comes to realise that dark secrets underlay the picturesque fields and villages of the countryside and there might be work for Britain’s most junior wizard after all.

Soon he’s in a vicious race against time in a world where the boundaries between reality and fairy have never been less clear…

 

I’ve made no secret about my total love for the Rivers of London series (apart from the second book – that one’s crap). They’re one of my go to’s for comfort reading: quick, entertaining, easy to read, and a little bit different former standard modern fantasy. For a start, the protagonist, Peter Grant, actually acts like a real police officer! He doesn’t pull the maverick cop act (much) but co-operates with other officers and departments, does his paperwork, follows procedure (as much as you can do when dealing with the supernatural) and generally acts in a way you expect a real person who doesn’t want be fired to act.

And Foxglove Summer really is Peter Grant’s book – taken out of London and away from his cast of supporting characters, Foxglove Summer gives Peter the chance to shine on his own for the first time. Regulars like Nightingale, Lesley, and Beverly do make their appearances, but generally it comes from the other end of the phone and, I was surprised to find, I didn’t miss them at all. I didn’t even miss the London setting, which has always been one of the highlights of all previous novels. Quietly, and without me really noticing it, Peter has grown up enough to carry a book – and a police case – on his own, and it was great to read him doing just that, and doing it pretty dang competently.

The police case itself is an interesting one too – the disappearance of two eleven year old girls from a rural village in Herefordshire. Parallels are drawn, of course, between the Soham case and, as each day passes, the police and families get ever more concerned, and the press pack outside grows ever larger. Of course, being a Rivers of London book, it soon becomes apparent that it’s nothing with such an unpleasantly human explanation. There is something supernatural going on, something that apparently involves one of the girls’ invisible friend – ‘Princess Luna’, an invisible carnivorous pony.

More than any of the other Rivers of London books, this one really focuses on the case, the police work, and the families. It’s a simple, single-narrative story that comes as a nice break and something of a relief, after the tangle of separate, but interconnected cases in previous novels. Perhaps some might (quite fairly) criticise Foxglove Summer for being a ‘breather episode’ designed to slow things down after the high stakes climax of Broken Homes – but it’s a breather episode that I personally think I needed.

Not that the case (or the novel) ends entirely satisfactorily, like a lot of police cases in real life, there are a lot of loose ends that don’t get tied up, in fact the whole book ends a little bit suddenly just as you’re expecting to get some more answers. But this feels more like an attempt to add a bit of realism than it does bad writing, in fact, Aaronovitch’s writing has improved incredibly since the utterly execrable sex scenes and Peter’s uncharacteristic stupidity-driven plot in Moon over Soho (I would honestly tell people to skip that book completely if it wasn’t for the irritating fact that the subplot there introduces the series’  main antagonist). I also suspect, from the ending, that a few of those loose ends will in fact be tied up in future novels. Future novels that I am very much looking forward to rushing out and buying in hardback as soon as they’re released (and I haven’t done that for any other series since Harry Potter, so that’s pretty high praise).

All in all, another great addition to the Rivers of London series – Peter proves he doesn’t need his supporting cast and Aaronovitch proves he doesn’t need the London setting to deliver a great piece of amusing, exciting, and very British, modern fantasy.

Still, next book I demand more Lesley!

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