By Ben Aaronovitch
DAW Books, 2014
A review by
Colleen R. Cahill
The word consistency sometimes gets a bad rap, being paired with a lack of imagination or strangely, hobgoblins. When it comes to serial novels, however, it is hard to have too much consistency, especially when talking about a quality work. Good consistency is just what Ben Aaronovitch has shown in his Rivers of London series and the latest release Foxglove Summer, from DAW Books, is again a delightful read, as police constable Peter Grant is sent to the “the tiny village of Rushpool in sleepy rural Herefordshire” to join in a search for two missing eleven-year-old girls.
On the surface, missing children do not seem tied to the work of the Folly, the arm of the Metropolitan Police force that deals with “weird bollocks” or magic. As Chief Inspector Nightingale explains, in the past children were used for “unethical types of magic”, so any such cases are of interest. Mainly this means someone checks on all the local wizards, which is how Peter ends up on his road trip out of London. He lands at a wizard’s tower, where he interviews a contemporary of Nightingale’s, Hugh Oswald. This meeting not only makes it clear that the wheelchair bound Oswald has nothing to do with the missing children, it also reveals more about the tragedy of the Battle of Ettersburg and Nightingale’s role there. On top of this, Peter notices Oswald’s unusual granddaughter who has a very strange affinity for bees.
After finding not the slightest hint about the wayward girls, Peter volunteers to lend a hand in the investigation. Assigned to assist with the Family Liaison, Peter soon meets the parents of the girls and begins working with the local police. At first the village seems without any magical influences and is even a bit boring. The only oddity seems to be a nearby trail that is a UFO hotspot. Things change when Peter is asked to do an official assessment of the situation for magic: by the third day of the girls’ disappearance, the police are clutched for straws. Hints come up when Peter discovers the two girls had a common invisible friend, Princess Luna, who was a pony. It is a suspicion that leads him out of the village and into the woods.
This book has an edgy feel not only because of the missing children, but also because of Peter is dealing with the betrayal a few months before by a fellow police officer: I won’t spoil the surprise; you should read Broken Homes to learn more. As Nightingale cannot leave the Folly due to that betrayal, Peter is joined by Beverly Brooke, a “goddess of a small river in South London” Not only does she provide expert supernatural advice, she also starts to deal with Peter’s continuing depression, using some methods that are a bit unusual.
Aaronovitch has once again created a police procedural that keeps one guess. While we might not be surprised that there are supernatural elements tied to the missing girls, there are plenty of loops and twists and I am sure you will not guess the ending of this very unpredictible book.
So for its good consistency, for its riveting plot and fascinating characters, I highly recommend Foxglove Summer along with all the Rivers of London books.