With this long new novella, bestselling author Ben Aaronovitch has crafted yet another wickedly funny and surprisingly affecting chapter in his beloved Rivers of London series.
Ghost hunter, fox whisperer, troublemaker.
It is the summer of 2013 and Abigail Kamara has been left to her own devices. This might, by those who know her, be considered a mistake. While her cousin, police constable and apprentice wizard Peter Grant, is off in the sticks chasing unicorns Abigail is chasing her own mystery. Teenagers around Hampstead Heath have been going missing but before the police can get fully engaged the teens return home – unharmed but vague about where they’ve been.
Aided only by her new friend Simon, her knowledge that magic is real and a posse of talking foxes that think they’re spies, Abigail must venture into the wilds of Hampstead to discover who is luring the teenagers and more importantly – why?
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From Publishers Weekly:
“Aaronovitch’s trademark humor is the highlight of his ninth Rivers of London urban fantasy (after False Value). Here, he focuses on London teenager Abigail Kamara, a supporting character in previous books who’s occasionally assisted apprentice wizard Peter Grant, a member of a supernatural branch of the Metropolitan Police… Kamara is an endearing protagonist who is more than capable of carrying future books. Series fans are sure to enjoy this.”
What Abigail Did That Summer
Achieving Best Evidence
I'm sitting in an interview room in Holmes Road police station. It’s not like the ones you see on TV, with bare walls, a table and an old-fashioned twin-deck tape recorder. Who makes those machines anyway, and where are they getting the cassette tapes from? Somebody somewhere is making a ton of cash selling obsolete gear to the Metropolitan Police.
Anyway, the room I’m in has low-slung wood seating with foam cushions covered in pastel coloured fabric. There is an open space with a red and yellow rug and beanbag seats. Against the wall are shelves with the sort of board games and cheap plastic toys you can buy down the market or in Poundland.
The room also has a pair of Perspex domes fixed to the ceiling where the CCTV cameras hide, and somewhere nearby will be a room with monitors and recorders and probably a senior police officer of detective inspector rank or higher. I know the Feds. I know how they work. And I know that this is the Achieving Best Evidence suite, ABE, where they interview children and victims of sexual assault.
Or catch a crafty nap on night shift, Peter says. But Peter isn’t here right now. He’s in Herefordshire, hunting his own set of missing kids.
A white woman enters, a typical Fed with an off-the-peg suit, a lying face and suspicious eyes. She says her name is Kay but the name on the warrant card hanging on a lanyard around her neck is Karen Jonquiere. She will be an experienced detective constable with special training in interviewing traumatised children and stroppy teens. This is why she’s stressing her northern accent—going for that no-nonsense Coronation Street mood. She’s impatient, unconsciously tapping her foot. There are missing kids, time is of the essence. Deep down, I know, she wants to grab me and shake me until I tell her what she wants to know. I get that a lot. But the last adult that got physical with me ended up barred from working with children—and that’s after he got out of hospital.
She knows all this, of course. She’s read my file, which means she knows about the Folly and about the magic. But she’s the type that won’t believe in the supernatural until it pops up and slaps her in the face.
She glances down at the untouched plate of biscuits and the drink that sits between us on the coffee table.
“You’re not hungry?” she asks.
I’m actually bare hungry and my stomach is growling. But I like being hungry sometimes. I like the feeling of being in control of my own body, my own wants and needs. I’m not anorexic, right? That’s important. When I look in the mirror I see myself the way I am. It’s good discipline not to give in, not to just grab the first tasty thing that comes your way. I’m thirsty, too. But the drink they brought me was easier to resist—I mean, Capri-Sun. What were they thinking?
Hungry and thirsty makes me keen, makes me sharp like a knife. Because whatever Lady Fed thinks, I ain’t here to answer questions. Quite the contrary, really.
“Who’s still missing?” I ask.
Lady Fed’s eyes narrow but she says nothing.
“Did Jessica come home?” I ask, and there is a tiny reaction. A tightening of the lips.
Yeah, I think, Jessica just walked out, didn’t she? Turned up at her yard as if nothing happened and her mum hadn’t been sticking photos of her on every lamppost from Chalk Farm to Tufnell Park. Some of the kids wandered in and out like the house was a youth centre and they were doing a summer activities course. Some people got to stay. These would be the ones Lady Fed was interested in.
“What about Natali?” I ask, and Lady Fed is frowning because she so wants to ask who’s Natali, but can’t because I’ve got to have an appropriate adult because I’m thirteen—that’s the law, that is.
I could name other names but you don’t want to push the Feds too far. They can get obstreperous and this one’s already giving me the squinty-eyed look that adults always give me after meeting me for more than five minutes.
“We’re trying to help here, you know,” she says.
To keep her sweet I pick up the Capri-Sun, strip out the straw and punch it into the juice pouch. I take a long pull, which calms Lady Fed down a bit and gives me time to think. Obviously some of the children are leaking out of the house and some are not—what the differences are between them might be the clue I’m looking for.
The door opens and Simon’s mum walks in.
She is one of them big little white women who spends her days ordering men around a conference table, and her evenings making plans for Nigel or Tarquin or Fionnuala or whatever their kids are called. She was obviously off duty when the police called her, because she’s wearing navy trousers and a beige cashmere roll-neck jumper. A couple of kids at my school have mums like her, or at least the trendy Let’s send our kids to the local comprehensive to show how right-on we are versions.
Simon’s mum isn’t right-on or trendy, but I reckon she’s my best chance of walking out of the fuzz box without so much as a social worker’s report.
Whoever Lady Fed was expecting to turn up, it wasn’t Simon’s mum, who is now showing her a laminated photo ID which she slips back into her jacket before I can get a good look.
Lady Fed is made of sterner stuff, because she holds up a hand to stop Simon’s mum in her tracks and turns to me.
“This woman cannot be your appropriate adult,” she says
“Why not?” I ask.
“Because it would be inappropriate,” she says.
“Why’s that, then?” I ask.
Lady Fed mentally reviews her answers and realises that she doesn’t have an objection she can say out loud. So she smoothly changes tack, which is well slick and I get a better opinion of her.
“Don’t you think one of your parents would be more suitable?” she asks.
I look at Simon’s mum again—her face is a total mask. It’s actually kind of cool how mask-like her face is. I wish I could do a face like that. Like not all the time, right? But just when I need it. You know. On special occasions.
“She is suitable,” I say. “A responsible person aged eighteen or over who is not a police officer or a person employed by the police.”
As set out in Section 38 (4)(a) Crime and Disorder Act 1998—but I’ve learnt the hard way not to quote statutes at the Feds. They don’t like it and it makes them suspicious.
Lady Fed shrugs and turns to Simon’s mum.
“She’s all yours,” she says.
Simon’s mum settles in the chair beside me. The detective opens her mouth but before she can speak Simon’s mum turns on me and, baring her teeth, snarls.
“You little wretch,” she says. “Where’s my son?”
- Ben Aaronovitch
- 232 pages
- United States
- In Print