Usually when I talk about books or movies I enjoy I try and avoid spoilers. But this is book five in Ben Aaronovitch’s excellent Rivers of London series and, while I’m going to try and avoid spoiling anything about this book, there are some major spoilers for the rest of the series. If you haven’t read the first four books and you want to do so without spoilers now is the time to bow out. You can come back after you read up to this point, though!
So if you read Broken Homes you know that Rivers of London has gone through a major transition. Leslie May, a major player in PC Peter Grant’s life, has abandoned the forces of good and joined up with the Faceless Man to work against Peter, DCI Nightingale and the rest of The Folly (namely, the maid, Molly, and the department mascot, Toby the Dog). In exchange she hopes to get a new face to replace the one she lost to Mr. Punch at the end of the first book.
Foxglove Summer opens with Peter being sent out of London (gasp!) to investigate a case of missing children. There’s no evidence of this being the kind of case The Folly normally investigates but due diligence is due diligence and that goes double when children are involved. That goes double again when witnesses report the children talked to invisible friends that, unlike the typical invisible friend, are actually there. Moving things. Giving rides. Touching people. It seems like you can’t go anywhere with Peter and not find something Folly-esque.
Beyond saving the kids Peter has issues of his own to work out. First, by going into the country he’s quite literally run from his problems back in London. He hasn’t dealt with Leslie’s betrayal or the near-death experience he had on his last assignment. The Metropolitan Police aren’t entirely sure he wasn’t in cahoots with Leslie. And Beverly Brook, London River Incarnate, has come in on this case to consult and there’s unresolved emotional issues there, too.
All in all, Foxglove Summer is kind of a renaissance for the series. Peter is put in unfamiliar circumstances so he can get perspective, set new goals and come to grips with his very unexpected place in life. At the same time, it provides a jumping on point for new readers. If you want to get into this series in the middle, don’t want to go back and read a bunch of backstory or just want to enjoy a good suspense story with an otherworldly twist then this book will fit your bill. The one disappointment you might find as you read will stem from the title’s failure to advance it’s overarching plot, as Beverly is the only river of London in the book and the machinations of the various riverine incarnations is alluded to but never comes into play. While events in this book may eventually play a part in future parts of that story the lack of obvious advancement might be frustrating to some longtime readers.
All in all this is another solid installment to the series and reaffirms my belief that Aaronovitch will be able to transition things well from the opening act of his story to the larger stage of whatever is coming down the pike. But it’s also probably the last really accessible entrance point for new readers so if you want to get on board do it now.