By Ben Aaronovitch

Subterranean Press


230pp/$40.00/March 2021

What Abigail Did That Summer
Cover by Alex Janson

Reviewed by Steven H Silver

Ben Aaronovitch has been chronicling the exploits of Police Constable Peter Grant since the publication of Rivers of London in 2011. Over the course of ten years, eight novels, and several graphic novels and short stories, Aaronovitch has introduced an ever-growing collection of collateral characters, including a young teenager named Abigail. A relative of Peter's. Abigail has figured out that magic is real and Grant and his mentor, Thomas Nightingale, have promised to teach her more magic as a way of keeping her out of trouble. The novella What Abigail Did That Summer is her first solo outing, set while Grant is in Herefordshire during the events chronicled in Foxglove Summer.

Abigail's solo adventure takes place near Hampstead Heath in London. It begins when she's on the heath responding to an invitation from one of her schoolmates, Natali, who is nowhere to be seen. Instead, she finds a boy named Simon who had also come to the heath to meet someone who never showed up. The two become fast friends and Abigail realizes that there is something a little off about Simon, although she happily accepts him for what his is, whatever that may be. In the process, the two kids explore the heath, finding the eccentrics who frequent it and discovering a skulk of foxes, one of whom, Indigo, is keeping tabs on Abigail. They eventually find themselves exploring a house near the heath which may be linked to the reason neither of their friends showed up for their meetings, as well as other potentially missing children.

Much of the book feels like it is simply laying groundwork, fleshing out Abigail's relationship with Simon and his over-protective mother, introducing Indigo and the rest of the foxes, and giving a tour of Hampstead Heath, with the end-papers in the hardcover edition helpfully providing a map of the heath. Eventually, Abigail begins to explore the house and the book really takes off. Aaronovitch depicts the events that occur in the house in a disconcerting and horrific manner. He manages to subvert Abigail's competency by blurring the line for the reader about her specific roles in those sequences. There is truly a sense of suspense as well as a question about what is happening in the house and how it relates to the rest of the story.

Abigail's role in the previous novels in the Rivers of London series has been almost in cameos. She appears and disappears almost at random, her presence known, but not necessarily on stage. When she does show up as an almost junior auxiliary to Peter, she adds a spark to those novels. When she has to carry an entire book, even a short one like What Abigail Did That Summer, she isn't quite up to the task. Abigail is intelligent and extremely competent. She has clearly learned many of the lessons Grant and Nightingale have been trying to impart to her, but she lacks a spark to make herself as interesting as the investigation she tackles.

Although What Abigail Did That Summer is part of the on-going Rivers of London series, making use of one of the recurring characters, it might make more sense to consider it as a standalone novel or the first of a potential series revolving around Abigail. As with the best novel sin the Rivers of London series, the book adds to the lore of the demimonde that the characters explore, and in some ways it even ties in closely with Peter's simultaenous explorations taking place in Foxglove Summer. Perhaps even more important, although not specifically categorized as a young adult novel, the use of Abigail provides younger readers with an entry point to the series.

Purchase this book

Amazon BooksOrder from Amazon UK



Return to