I’ve fallen in love with the “Rivers of London” series. I look forward to each new book because I know I will slide into a world of PC Peter Grant and feel happier for being in his company: a mixed-race police constable in the Met, he approaches the world with an insatiable curiosity, a passion for architecture, a commitment to the scientific method, an implacable resistance to the abuse of power, a dry wit that never slides into jaded cynicism and the ability, after much practice and with great concentration, to do magic. He is clever, brave, amusing and easy to like.
The Rivers of London series describes how Peter becomes assigned to “The Folly”, a once-grand establishment responsible for policing the interaction of the human and the magical, that has declined as magic started to ebb from the world. Peter. the only recruit for a generation, is assigned at a point when magic seems to be increasing and, of course, bad people are plotting to take advantage of it.
“Foxglove Summer”, the fifth and latest in the series, delivers many of the things that I enjoyed in its predecessors: witty text, strong police procedure, often described tongue-in-cheek, Peter’s obsession with architecture and with applying science to magic, likeable characters – even the ones who have shady allegiances and are not fully or even partly human. It also benefits from the excellent narration by Kobna Holdbrook-Smith who brings the characters in the book alive.
In previous books, London or aspects of her spirit or history, was almost a character in her own right. This book is set in deepest, darkest Herefordshire, a land of farms, forests, cows and dogging. By moving Peter Grant, the quintessential Londoner, from a city that he blends into like a lion on the Savannah, to the country where he doesn’t have a clue, Ben Aaronvitch made it easier for me to see Peter and understand who is becoming.
Until “Foxglove Summer”, Peter Grant played the role of apprentice, with his boss, The Nightingale, there to advise and support Peter’s still-developing powers and guide his sometimes extremely rash judgements. In this book, Peter is at least a journeyman, choosing his own path independently of his mentor. He is also pushed to be more by Beverley Brook, a twenty-something river goddess who has been flirting with him and teasing him since the start of the series.
“Foxglove Summer” resists the Holmes vs Moriarty or Bond vs Spectre dynamic. Instead of Peter Grant pursuing the Faceless Man that he fought at the end of “Broken Homes”, he is confronted in “Foxglove Summer” with nothing more or less sinister than a force of nature to whom his fate is largely incidental. The result is a kind of coming of age for Peter that I thought worked very well.
A couple of things in “Foxglove Summer” were less than satisfying: the storyline around the bees seemed to go nowhere, which felt somehow like a broken promise rather than a loose-end in the plot, and the resolution of the story was so focused on Peter that I didn’t find out as much as I would have liked about what happened to the sisters.
These are small things that might have made a very good book even better. I’m still in love with this series. I hope it runs for a very long time.
If you’d like to hear an extract from “Foxglove Summer”, click on the SoundCloud link below: