Book Review: Ben Aaronovitch’s Foxglove Summer

Posted October 13, 2015 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: Ben Aaronovitch’s Foxglove Summer

Foxglove Summer


Ben Aaronovitch

urban fantasy in eBook edition that was published by Gollancz on November 13, 2014 and has 377 pages.

Explore it on Goodreads or Amazon.

Other books by this author which I have reviewed include Midnight Riot, Moon Over Soho, Whispers Under Ground, Broken Homes, The Hanging Tree

Fifth in the PC Peter Grant urban fantasy series (a.k.a., Rivers of London) and revolving around Peter Grant, a magics apprentice within the police. This action takes place in Herefordshire.

My Take

I do adore Peter’s sense of humor. It’s so snarky as he starts off so prim and proper and then throws in the kicker, ROFL. Okay, so it’s really Aaronovitch, but you know what I mean.

“There’s nothing quite like Latin for disguising the fact that you’re making it up as you go along.”

It’s a completely different take on policing, lol. All the usual “actions” and passing anything and everything up the chain of command so you’re not caught holding the bag. Interviewing rivers, casting werelights, deputizing a goddess, you know, just your average everyday policing. *smirk* Then there’s the question of official statements. What’s left off the public one; what goes on the real one.

“Do you know who I am?

Yes sir — you’re nicked.”

It’s another facet of magic in officialdom as Aaronovitch veers into a different kind of investigation, one involving missing children and a retired, official wizard with an odd sort of granddaughter.

Mmmm. Poster boy for diversity, huh…

Hugh explains why Nightingale is always referred to as “the Nightingale”. Oh, boy. A useful blend of real history and real Nazi-induced horrors, as we learn a bit more about what Ettersberg was really about.

I like how Aaronovitch blends the reality with the supernatural. The girls going out to watch the moon. How their parents assume they’re getting their ideas from the Lord of the Rings. The My Little Pony association. Unnatural events that have occurred in the historic past that Peter is able to re-interpret based on his new awareness. How the natural landscape, nature trails, woods, bodies of water, and more are concentrations of potentia with their own characters. Makes you want to take a look around and…wonder.

I’m also wondering if Aaronvitch is a Blackadder fan? I know he’s a Dr. Who fan!
Oh, lord, seems that “fun” in the river was how Peter’s “milkshake brings all the gods to the yard”.

Some good tips for men in this, ahem, *as I laugh*…

“I made a point of mouthing a big ‘ow’ and acting like I was in pain. You have to do this — if you don’t, they kick you again to make sure you got the point.”

The Story

It’s the disappearance of two young girls in the English countryside that forces Peter out of London. An unnatural countryside with supernatural activity galore.

It’s a tricky case, as Peter Grant must be a policeman as well as interpret magical phenomena to his fellow coppers. Along with those nudges and winks that grease the wheels…lol.

The river spirits — local and otherwise — get into the action as well, leaving Peter to cope with them as well as the swank pubs that cater to the tourists.

The Characters

Police Constable (PC) Peter Grant is a magic apprentice within an arcane division in the Metropolitan Police, the Specialist Assessment Unit (SAU). His master, boss, and governor is Detective Inspector Thomas Nightingale, one of the very few survivors of Ettersberg. Molly is the Folly’s housekeeper with, um, interesting choices in cooking.

“Whatever was in the sandwiches, you didn’t want them getting too warm and going off, or starting to smell, or spontaneously mutating into a new life form.”

Former PC Lesley May is a colleague, a friend he thought, who tasered him in the back in Broken Homes, 4. Operation Carthorse is the plan to get Lesley back.

Specialist Assessment Unit…
…deals with magic and supernatural incidents. Professor Harold Postmartin is the Folly’s archivist and amateur historian based in Oxford.

The rest of the Metropolitan PD, London
Dr. Walid is Scottish and a world-renowned gastroenterologist and practicing cryptopathologist. HOLMES II is a computer program that is supposed to correlate data input by the police on case files. Inspector Pollock is with the Department of Professional Standards tracking Lesley’s “actions”. A Falcon assessment is determining, formally, if a case is better off with SAU and not buggering up their own budget.


Hugh Oswald survived Ettersberg. Just. Now he lives in Number One Moomin House where he keeps bees. Mellissa is his protective granddaughter. Barnaby Atkins Esq. was a county practitioner back in the early part of the twentieth century.

“As an architect, Erith might have been a progressive classicist, but he shared with his contemporaries the same failure to understand that you need to be able to open the oven door without having to leave the kitchen first.”

The Wyldes are neighbors to the Oswalds. A father and his sons, Australians, who seem to be very friendly with Mellissa.

Rushpool is…
…a tiny village at the center of a massive police search, Operation Manticore, for two eleven-year-olds, Nicole Lacey and Hannah Marstowe, who have been missing for over forty-eight hours. Hannah’s parents are Joanne and Andy Marstowe. Their other children include Ryan, the oldest, then Mathew, and then Ethan, the youngest. Derek and Vicky Lacey are Nicole’s parents. Zoe Lacey Thomas was an older daughter who ran away. Her mother was Derek’s first wife, Susan.

Ian Huntley was the last to see them. Marcus Bonneville owns the local pub, the Old Mill. Gabriella Darrell is a schoolfriend of the girls; Clarissa is her humorless mother. Mr. Darrell is CEO of a building services company. Alec is a software engineer. Russell Banks of Leominster is a potential suspect. Silly bugger. He’d been “dogging” it. Sharon Pike is a freelance journalist and newspaper columnist. Patrick Blackmoor manages the forest.

Miss Teveyddyadd, a.k.a., Miss Tefeidiad, is the goddess of the River Teme. Corve is her daughter, a tributary of the Teme. Lilly is her youngest. Beverley Brook is the daughter of the River Thames, a goddess of a small river of her own, and a sometime-girlfriend of Peter’s. Sabrina is a testy river goddess.

“‘We used to get heads,’ said Corve. …

‘Oh yes,’ said Miss Tefeidiad. ‘You got some respect in those days.'”

Princess Luna is a friend of Hannah’s. She’s a pony. Seems she has a Queen, who provides an unexpected reveal about Molly.

Herefordshire PD
Detective Constable (DC) Dominic Croft is Peter’s minder. Samantha “Stan” is Dominic’s very dubious friend. A bit of a nutter. Victor Lowell is Dominic’s boyfriend and a farmer who gets his market updates via Twitter and listens to 50 Cent. Dominic’s dad and Harry Plimpton are Andy Marstowe’s second cousins.

Inspector Charles Edmondson is the geographic commander for northern Herefordshire. DCI David Windrow is the senior investigating officer. Richard is POLSA, a search specialist. Detective Sergeant (DS) Allison Cole. Sally Donnahyde is a special constable and a primary school teacher in her other job. She’ll rein in the journalists. Police Sergeant Robert Collington heads up the Rushpool PD. DC Henry Carter is the lead FLO for the Laceys. (A FLO is a Family Liaison Officer.) Kimberly Cidre is with the High Tech Crime Unit in Worcester.

The fair with…
…its Travelers will lend a hand. Some of the families involved are the Wilsons, Carters, Spangolis, and Reginalds. Ken.

Varvara Sidorovna Tamonina is currently in SAU custody; she was with the 365th Special Regiment of the Red Army. Albert runs the electronics shop; he’s into aliens.

Vestigia is the imprint magic makes on physical objects. Hyperthaumaturgical degradation is damage by magic. Potentia silvestris is a type of magic produced by forests while rivers produce potentia fluvialis, sources which enable gods, goddesses, and spirits (Genius loci) to create a locus. Polidori had hoped for a potentia naturalis, magic from plants. Seducere is a type of influence which maddens a person. A hedge wizard is any magical practitioner who picked up their skills on their own or who had retired.

Operation Spatchcock was Ettersberg, n operation the Nightingale was against, the retrieval of the Black Library. David Mellenby thought they should be able to unite magic with quantum theory, and he was furious with the Germans.

The Smoke is London.

The Cover and Title

I love the cover with its lime green background and the red of the title bleeding down onto the map of Herefordshire, particularly the area where past “events”, including the missing girls, are located. The icons are too cute as a collage of important elements in the story. The UFO, phones, bees, traction machines, dead sheep, and more.

The title is a summer that Peter spends up in Herefordshire, exploring the local wild life, a Foxglove Summer of unexpected discoveries.