I have a habit of tearing through the Rivers of London novellas. What Abigail Did That Summer is no exception, foregrounding my favourite unruly relative, a teenaged whirlwind who is determined to learn magic. The summer in question is Foxglove Summer and with Peter out of town, there’s nobody to keep a wary eye on what Abigail is up to…
It begins with a warning from the foxes, keen to let Abigail know there’s danger brewing on Hampstead Heath. A mysterious power is luring teenagers away and it soon sets its sights on Abigail herself – the right age, and far more interesting than most of her peers. For her part, Abigail is hardly one to back away from a challenge. Besides, if you know it’s a trap, you’ve got the upper hand, right?
For all Abigail’s inimitable attitude, this is an unexpectedly bittersweet tale of a haunted house where the ghosts don’t know they’re dead and the living can get trapped in their memories. Supported by a new friend whose mother is clearly rather more than a civil servant and a fox who really does enjoy ear skritches (but probably wouldn’t appreciate being called a lap fox), Abigail is all set to lay things to rest – but must first confront the unfolding tragedy at the heart of her own family.
This was every bit as much fun as I expected, with a boatload of additional feelings that I appreciated. I also liked that while Abigail is significantly less cautious than Peter (except where Nightingale is concerned), she’s neither foolhardy nor fearless – although she may want to give a little more thought to her interactions with river goddesses.
Given where the novella ends, it feels like it might be setting up a spin-off series – at the very least, it strongly suggests Abigail has continued getting up to things that Peter doesn’t know about (and wouldn’t sleep well if he did). The thing that amuses me most though? Abigail spent that summer a lot like Peter did – well, minus the river babies.