by Ben Aaronovitch



374pp/£14.99/November 2014

Foxglove Summer

Patrick Knowles

Reviewed by Steven H Silver

After having Peter Grant explore the criminal and magical elements of London through four novels (with a brief sojourn into the English countryside), Ben Aaronovitch shakes things up by having Grant help out with a kidnapping investigation in Herefordshire in Foxglove Summer. The disappearance of two eleven year old-girls does not appear to have any supernatural causes or repercussions when Grant first gets involved and he is assigned to liaise between the local police and the parents of one of the missing girls. Hooked up with local DS Dominic Croft, Grant has a local guide who can not only provide him with necessary introductions in the village, but also offer him the background of places and relationships that he would otherwise not have.

While the discovery that one of the missing girls had an invisible friend could have been shrugged off as unimportant since so many children have imaginary friends, but with his attunement to the supernatural, Grant wonders if the invisible unicorn friend might actually exist, which opens up his world to another level of magic and the introduction of a rural world of faeriedom. While this concept offers a rather obvious explanation for the disappearance of the girls, Aaronovitch adds twists to it.

It is a common trope that the idyllic appearance small rural community has a dark underside, and, of course, as a police officer, that underside will make itself known to Grant, who discovers the local drug scene, a group of au natural orgyists, and the extramarital affairs that the girls' disappearance threatens to expose.

Removing Grant from his typical haunts occurs at the perfect time in the overarching plot of Aaronovitch's novels. The previous novel, Broken Homes ended with a betrayal by a close ally. Having Grant work a case in Herefordshire allows Aaronovitch and Grant to avoid dealing with the cataclysmic fall out from that betrayal. Although it does play a role in Foxglove Summer, it doesn't overwhelm either plot or character.

Following Grant's adventures in Hereford not only gives Aaronovitch a new area to explore with regard to his vision of supernatural England, but it also gives him more freedom with the characters. As noted above, Grant is introduced to Dominic Croft, who quickly is brought into his circle, but the rest of the London constabulary, including Grant's governor, Thomas Nightingale, are mostly missing. Without Nightingale to provide magical guidance, Grant finds Hugh Oswald, a local practitioner who new Nightingale decades earlier. Grant's companions are not entirely new as Beverly Brook reappears to move their relationship forward, provide him with some cover for his inquiries, and serve her own purposes which she refuses to reveal to Grant.

Partly due to its location, the case Grant is working on, of the two missing girls, feels like a sideline to the overarching story Aaronovitch is telling, however at the same time, by moving the action away from London and not appearing to focus on that broader story, Foxglove Summer feels like it actually moves that story further along, whether it is Grant's relationship with Beverly, his dealing with the betrayal from Broken Homes, or his broader understanding of magic. While Broken Homes felt like a linking novel, Foxglove Summer firmly moves beyond that.

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