BOOK REVIEW: Foxglove Summer

This is the Fifth instalment of the consistently bestselling  Peter Grant series by Ben Aaronovitch. Peter Grant is a junior cop in the Metropolitan Police attached to The Folly, official home of English wizardry, under DCI Nightingale, the last officially sanctioned English Wizard.

Foxglove Summer takes Peter Grant to a small village in Herefordshire where the local police are reluctant to admit that there might be a supernatural element to the disappearance of some local children. But while you can take the London copper out of London you can’t take the London out of the copper.

Travelling west with Beverley Brook, Peter soon finds himself caught up in a deep mystery and having to tackle local cops and local gods. And what’s more all the shops are closed by 4pm…

One of the attractive factors of this book (at least for Londoners) is that it is set in and around some very familiar landscapes. The sense of London is thoroughly ingrained in these books so it is perhaps risky but also very wisely that Aaronovitch gives us a break from the big smoke and we get Peter’s first adventure in the …..COUNTRYSIDE!!!!
This of course brings it’s own hilarity as evidenced by the last sentence off the blurb above.
For long time fans of urban fantasy I suppose you could say that Peter Grant is the Harry Dresden of Central London and this story has him team up with a local Hereford cop and the aforementioned Beverly Brook, Peter’s sort of girlfriend and river goddess. As the books have progressed Peter has built up a nice team of associates, and in my head at least, they all form a super team for a final climatic battle at around book 10…but thats probably just my skewed perspective.
This story like all the others gives a good insight into police procedure, this time highlighting missing persons protocol. If that protocol involved ruling out retired wizards, dealing with carnivorous unicorns and hidden faerie kingdoms that is. There is a backdrop of relationship anxiety to this book as just about every character struggles to define the nature of their respective couplings. This is not an intrusive thing and slots into place nicely.
This story is an odd beast as it feels like a filler. I mean that in terms of the over arcing storyline, which seems to take a break here.  Lesley May, Peter’s best friend (and a better police officer than he is) is sorely missed but the suspense continues to grow as we wait to better understand the consequences of her actions at the end of  the last book. There are however small pockets of information which flesh out certain backgrounds. Information that fans of the series have been chomping at the bit to know.
Ben Aaronovitch is firmly ensconced in ‘geek’ culture and one of the charms of his writing here is how he uses’s Peter’s voice to identify and laugh at certain tropes without condescension ( a lesson the Big Bang theory could learn from). For example in the following dialogue
“Nightingale was against it from the start, said we should send in the RAF and bomb the camp from altitude. He said it was the only way to be sure.’ He gave me a puzzled look. ‘Did I say something funny?’
 ‘No, sir’ I said.
If you don’t get that, then hand in your geek card on the way out!
The genus of Aaronovitch though, for me, is in his appropriation of culture. Peter Grant is mixed race of British and Sierra Leone descent. Aaronovitch has managed to channel a genuine voice without, rightly so, making it a ‘thing’. It also seems to me that in this book more than any other he has reset the default.  Usually in a book colour is only mentioned when a character is introduced that is not white, the unintentional inference being that white is the default.  Following in the footsteps of Neil Gaiman in Anansi Boys and Nalo Hopkinson before him, this book has reversed that.  While there may be an argument that we should aim for a lack of a default either way, I believe this reversal is the genesis of an unconscious rewiring that needs to take place.
The previous Peter Grant book despite its epic ending had a big problem with pacing and this is much improved in this book. Thats not to say it’s been completely removed, there were passages where I found myself skimming ahead; Peter’s encyclopaedic knowledge of certain subjects seems a bit unnecessary sometimes. Having said that I loved this story. This is a series where the announcement of a new book fills me with joy.

AUTHORS: Ben Aaronovitch
H/BACK: 384 Pages

Rating: 4/5


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