Foxglove Summer by Ben Aaronovitch

A review by Nalini Haynes

Foxglove Summer is the fifth in Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London series about Peter Grant, a police constable who accidentally discovers the supernatural and moves in to the London Metropolitan Police’s special branch for dealing with ‘Falcon’ or supernatural matters. So, when two eleven-year-old girls go missing, Nightingale (Peter’s boss) sends Peter into the wilds or Herefordshire to check that a local retired wizard hasn’t been up to no good, like child sacrifice or something.

Although Peter promptly rules out that wizard as the villain, he stays on to help with the case. When the girls’ mobile phones are found, and Peter realizes they’re magically-fried, his Falcon investigation gains momentum.

Between texts from former copper and my favorite character, Lesley; a visit from the goddess of a small river in London, Beverley Brook; an empty river and two missing children, Peter’s hands are full.

Foxglove Summer continues Peter’s comedic adventures in fine style, however, women continue to be sexual objects more than characters in their own right. If you can look past that, Foxglove Summer is a fun story.

Peter has sexytimes in this novel. Repeatedly. Aaronovitch isn’t going to win the Bad Sex Award because his scenes are painted in a minimalist style a little like the karma sutra: without pictures, the descriptions make your head spin, trying to figure out what’s going on. One in particular was — well, let’s just say that Peter’s partner must be flexible and his ‘throbbing member’ (a term thankfully not used in the novel) must be quite long. As in porn star long for that maneuver to not to cause an, um, separation. (Another note about sexytimes is below.)

The climatic revelation featured a fundamental plot hole; see the bottom of the page below the book information (ISBN etc) for an explanation if you are prepared for spoilers. Peter makes a surprising discovery or, at least, a discovery surprising to him late in the story.

The final scene feels like something new and epic opens up then BAM! the story is over with some loose ends but no sequel continuing this story in sight; Aaronovitch says The Hanging Tree (the next in the series) is a different adventure in London. I felt like I’d been promised a box of Haigh’s Dark Chocolate Gingers only to be given a crumb and sent on my way. I’m not sure if Aaronovitch is avoiding emulating Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files and Helen Lowe’s Heir of Night et al or if this is a hint of story threads for novels to come: Aaronvitch says he plans to write Peter Grant until he dies.

Overall, Foxglove Summer is a light read as a comedic high fantasy police procedural. This series is like the Dresden Files crossed with World’s End. I confess I’m looking forward to the next one, especially as it will be Peter Grant vs The One Percent (wealthy people in London).

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
ISBN: 9780575132528
Format: paperback, 320 pages
Publisher: Gollancz (Hachette)

Spoiler alert

Now for the spoilery bits. Consider these the text-web version of ‘deleted scenes’ from the above review.

You Have Been Warned: SERIOUS SPOILERS.

Sexytimes
There’s a Walk of Shame. Naked. Along a busy road. I was waiting, hoping, for a cheeky appearance on the front page of the Daily Mail; an opportunity was missed. Aaronovitch can justify this omission because of whom was present but it would have been fun.

Climatic plot hole
The child was a changeling; the first switch was as a baby, the second leading in to the climax of this novel. While the changeling was growing up with humans, she behaved like a human child. Then the changeling left and the original child was rescued only to behave like fae with mind control powers and demanding a diet of sugar as you’d expect of a faery. However, neither biological parent (confirmed by DNA testing) appears fae. So there appears to be a couple of holes here for the purpose of misdirection and complicating the climax.

The outcome of Peter’s actions leave threads dangling and complications looming. In my opinion, Foxglove Summer needs a second book to complete the story. Hopefully, Aaronovitch will pick up these threads later.

The final scene
Peter discovers that the world of faery is interconnected with the ‘real’ world and yet is simultaneously a parallel world. I’m not sure why this is such a revelation to him as he’s visited gods and demi-gods on a regular basis before but I guess Peter hadn’t read any Celtic or Gaelic mythology… or anything fae-related.

Anyhoo, Peter crosses over into faeryland as a hostage then BAM! he’s rescued and goes home. Without complications.

WTF?!

You opened a box of chocolates then slammed the lid closed with my still-empty fingers lingering between the edges of the box. I expected at least one chocolate!

End of the deleted scenes/paragraphs. In spite of these criticisms, I still enjoyed Foxglove Summer. Think of the series as dark-chocolate cherry ripes: one at a time as an occasional treat. 😉
Foxglove Summer — a map of the English countryside looks like there's a large pool of blood in a valley