What Abigail Did That Summer

Written by Ben Aaronovitch

Review written by Jon Morgan

Jon Morgan is a retired police Superintendent and francophile who, it is said, has consequently seen almost everything awful that people can do to each other. He relishes quality writing in all genres but advises particularly on police procedure for authors including John Harvey and Jon McGregor. Haunts bookshops both new and secondhand and stands with Erasmus: “When I have a little money, I buy books; and if I have any left, I may buy food and clothes.”

What Abigail Did That Summer
RRP: £12.99
Released: March 18, 2021

At first glance this seems like a teen/YA mystery and, in one sense, it can be read on that level. It is, in fact, the latest in the Rivers of London series, where, according to the original strap-line, you find out, ‘What happens when Harry Potter grows up and joins the Met.’


This isn’t quite accurate as the main protagonist is a young black PC – Peter Grant - based at Charing Cross (this reviewer’s old hunting ground) who discovers magic and an ability to use it. He also discovers that there is a little known branch of the Met based in ‘The Folly’ which deals with magical incidents and crimes - or ‘weird shit’ – as it is more generally known. He becomes the first apprentice Wizard to be taken on, and trained, in many many years.


This novella though, takes place while he is off in the sticks dealing with apparently abducted children and features as a rising star and possible new apprentice, his young cousin Abigail Kamara.


Inevitably magic is involved and Abigail's major talent – having the trust of North London’s talking fox population, leads her into her own investigation into missing children on her own doorstep.  The book vividly depicts Hampstead Heath and its environs and is deeply comic as well as being a very well written crime (related) thriller.  


Abigail, being a young teen and more precocious than a precocious thing, as well as typically teen-cynical, uses teen slang and there are some very funny footnotes explaining these and other terms as the book reads rather like a report and one which is destined to be read by the FBI agent who is Peter Grant’s opposite number in the US and has featured in previous novels.


There are many references to other characters introduced in previous works such as the Goddess of the Fleet and her Court, the above mentioned talking foxes but much is new and the explanation for the fact that only humans and foxes can talk and the mess that the former has made of the world, is both funny and thoughtful.


The plot is a convoluted investigation into the disappearance, and reappearance of local teens, tracked to a strange house in the North London suburbs. Abigail is only a trainee, at best and takes on far more than she should. This magical world is full of danger for the most experienced practitioner, such as DCI Nightingale, in charge of the folly and Abigail’s failure to keep him in the loop has potentially disastrous consequences.


Much like the expansion into Europe, of the Rivers of London Series, (principally Germany), the novella can (just) be read as a stand-alone but you will get much more out of it by reading the series which has also branched out into graphic novel format and as a whole has a cult-following. None of this should put you off and even newcomers to the series will be utterly hooked.


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