Review: Foxglove Summer (Peter Grant, #5) by Ben Aaronovitch

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Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ½
Date Read: November 15 to 19, 2014
Read Count: 1
Recommended by:
Recommended for: people who’ve been anxiously waiting for what seems like forever

The events in this book take place a little over a month following the explosive ending in Broken Homes. Life at the Folly is back to relative normal as Peter and Nightingale settle back into their old routine, with a few minor changes. One being Nightingale now has to babysit Varvara Sidorovna and the other being too spoilery to mention. Since Nightingale can’t leave the Folly until he uncovers more about the Faceless Man and whatever plans he’s cooking up, it’s up to Peter to take on a missing children case in the village of Rushpool, a place well known for its UFO sightings.

With the help of Beverly Brook and local detective (and future sidekick?) Dominic, Peter takes the lead on this investigation.

For years there have been reports of strange things happening around Herefordshire, a rural area around Rushpool where the missing girls live, but no one paid them much attention until the girls went missing. Due to the strangeness of this case, local law enforcement have no leads, and so they’re open to any suggestions Peter might have. And Peter, true to his penchant for experiments with the unknown, takes the opportunity to explore as much of the unknown as he can, and the results he uncovers are quite…fascinating.

This book is the quintessential summer read, and for Peter, the adventure doubles as a much-needed break from the chaos and turmoil of London. In many ways, this book is lighthearted and fun and I can see why some people might have issues with it not picking up directly where Broken Homes left off, but personally, I’m glad for some summer R&R. It takes the pressure off of escalating the story arc too fast and too soon into climactic territory that might turn into melodrama. A climax and confrontation are in the works, as they’re alluded to many times, and things will build up to something even more explosive than what we’ve seen so far. But it’s gonna take time to get there, I think.

So if you jump in expecting many revelations or a continuation of the events in Broken Homes, you will be disappointed. But if you enjoy this book for what it is, another one of Peter’s adventures into the world of natural magic, then you’ll have a better time. And this adventure is chock full of creatures yet to be determined.

Are you certain you’re completely human? Would you like to find out for sure? Then come on down to Dr. Walid’s crypto-pathology lab where we put the “frank” back into Frankenstein!

Dr. Walid doesn’t get enough credit for what he does for the magical side of London law enforcement.

Peter is mostly on his own again, like in Rivers of London and Moon Over Soho, and I find that I like the story more this way, when he’s working things out all by his lonesome. For one, there’s a lot more funny quips, such as:

I sighed–policing would be so much easier if people didn’t have concerned relatives. The murder rate would be much lower, for one thing.

[…]

People shouldn’t be non-specific about where they made their money, not in front of the police.

[…]

This is where the whole ape-descended thing reveals its worth, I thought madly. Sucks to be you, quadruped. Opposable thumbs–don’t leave home without them.

[…]

Alas all good things must end–even if only to avoid back strains.

 

I had every intention of saving this book for Christmas break when things slow down enough for me to actually enjoy the read. But, nope, it was too tempting not to delve right in. So I devoured it a few days time. No regrets. It’s a fun read, a bit different than previous books, but still satisfying overall. I’d like to thank the people at Gollancz for sending me an e-copy to enjoy while I wait for my hard copy.

*

* *

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* * * * full spoilers ahead * * * *

The tone of this book is very casual, almost easy breezy, like a summer read should be, but once in awhile something like this is dropped into the narration, and you feel some of Peter’s pain. Although he wouldn’t admit to it outright, the hurt is still very much simmering on the surface.

Lesley always said that I wasn’t suspicious enough to do the job properly, and tasered me in the back to drive the point home. So, yeah, I stay suspicious these days–even when I’m having tea with likable old buffers.

Of course there are several mentions of Lesley like this. She doesn’t make an appearance though since she knows all of the London police force is looking for her, but she does send Peter cryptic texts from time to time to let him know she’s following his investigation.

Contrary to what I expected, Peter is pretty good at compartmentalizing pain, and it isn’t until half-way through the book that he has a brief, though provoked, meltdown in which he beats a tree and says mostly to himself:

Because she lost her face, man. Because that had to be like having your identity ripped away. Because you’re looking in the mirror and a hideous stranger is staring back. And what would I do if I was her, if I was give that choice?–like there would even be a decision. And getting angry doesn’t bring back her face or unmake the choice that she made.

[…]

Thank god for aliens, I thought, muddying the water since 1947. I’d once asked Nightingale the same question and he’d answered ‘Not yet.’ So I suppose if they were to suddenly turn up they’d be part of our remit. But I hoped they didn’t turn up anytime soon. It’s not like we don’t have enough work to do already.

I had been really, I mean really, hoping this case turned out to be an alien abduction. All signs pointed toward aliens activity. But alas it’s just your run of the mill fairy abduction. Bloody carnivorous unicorns thrown in for surprise and comedy.

So I fully expect there to be an alien mystery some time in the future because you can’t throw in a bunch of aliens allusions and then not deliver. Ben Aaronovitch used to writer for Doctor Who after all. I expect him to cook up an alien mystery that will redefine the urban fantasy genre. So, of course, no pressure there… 😀

“Peter,” [Beverly] said, “some things you don’t talk about.”
“Not even to me?”
“Especially to the feds,” she said, “Double so the magic feds.”

Hah.

“You said that there’s weird shit, but it normally turns out to have a rational explanation.” [Dominic said]
“It does,” said Beverly. “The explanation is a wizard did it.”
“That’s my line,” I said, and Beverly shrugged.
“You didn’t say anything about spells!” said Dominic.
“It’s just a werelight,” I said.

It takes the locals some time to get used to the realization that magic is real. Dominic here is handling it fairly well, which is why I hope we’ll see him again in later books.

“So the moon affects magic, why?” [Dominic asked]
“I’m working on several theories,” I said. “But I’m currently favouring the hypothesis that the moon has a seemingly arbitrary effect on magic because it likes to piss me off.”
“That’s a theory with a high degree of applicability to other spheres of life,” he said.
“Yes, it is,” I said, and we spontaneously fist bumped.

See? There’s room at the Folly for Dominic, I’m sure.

In which Peter and I have the exact same parents:

My dad would have told me to take the breaks as you get them and not worry about where they come from. But my mum never saw a gift horse that she wouldn’t take down to the vet to have its mouth X-rayed – if only so she could establish its resale value.

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