Foxglove Summer by Ben Aaronovitch
Introduced by Lesley Arrowsmith, a bookseller at Hay Cinema Bookshop
“I didn’t think my flame-retardant overall would be necessary, but my chunky PSU boots were a better bet than my street shoes. I’ve been to the countryside before, and I learn from my mistakes.”
So PC Peter Grant, London copper and trainee wizard, sets off way outside his comfort zone – to rural Herefordshire to investigate the disappearance of two little girls. It’s an incident that might be related to the presence of a retired “hedge wizard” in the area, which is why Peter is involved at all. He and his boss Inspector Nightingale are the only two magical coppers in the country, and though most of their work is done in London, they can be called almost anywhere.
This is the fifth book in the Peter Grant series, and the first to take Peter out of London on his own. He’s heading for Leominster, and as he investigates, he finds invisible carniverous unicorns, fae, and local river spirits living in a caravan, as well as appearances from regular characters like Peter’s girlfriend/river goddess Beverley Brook.
Peter is also the only black face in a very white county. At one point he has a near encounter with a couple of local lads.
“The white boys knew they had my attention now, but hesitated – that’s the trouble with being a racist in the white heartlands, you don’t get a lot of practical experience.”
Phil Rickman has, of course, written magical mysteries of a slightly more horrific variety which are set in various villages and towns of Herefordshire, but his magic is a different variety to Ben Aaronovitch’s, and he’s said that it would be impossible for Peter Grant to meet Rev Merrily Watkins. The Peter Grant books are altogether more light hearted, though they too deal with some gruesome crimes (Mr Punch in the first book is very nasty indeed).
So, it’s best to start with Rivers of London, as some of the characters (like Peter’s ex-colleague Lesley) develop through all the books, but Foxglove Summer is a great addition to the list of books about Herefordshire, and I heartily recommend it.