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Saturday, 15 November 2014

Doctor Who: Silhouette (12th Doctor novel) by Justin Richards

Title: Doctor Who: Silhouette (12th Doctor novel)
Author: Justin Richards
Series: Dr Who: New Series Adventures
Read Type: eARC
Stars: StarStarStarStar

You can purchase a copy of this book from Amazon UK and Amazon US
You can find out more about the author on Goodreads and his Amazon Author Page
Book Blurb
"Vastra and Strax and Jenny? Oh no, we don't need to bother them. Trust me."

Marlowe Hapworth is found dead in his locked study, killed by an unknown assailant. This is a case for the Great Detective, Madame Vastra.

Rick Bellamy, bare-knuckle boxer, has the life drawn out of him by a figure dressed as an undertaker. This angers Strax the Sontaran.

The Carnival of Curiosities, a collection of bizarre and fascinating sideshows and performers. This is where Jenny Flint looks for answers.

How are these things connected? And what does Orestes Milton, rich industrialist, have to do with it all? This is where the Doctor and Clara come in. The Doctor and his friends find themselves thrust into a world where nothing and no one are what they seem. Can they unravel the truth before the most dangerous weapon ever developed is unleashed on London?

Strong language: None
Drugs: None
Violence: some, non-graphic
Sexual content: None

I received a copy of this novel in return for an unbiased review from Random House via NetGalley

For those not familiar with the Dr Who franchise (it covers TV, audio books, novels a few films, plus other mediums, and has been an UK staple for over 50 years) it is based on a humanoid alien who travels time and space in the TARDIS, a ship resembling a 1960s UK police phone box that's bigger on the inside. He usually travels with one or more humans, either tracking down or stumbling into mysteries and alien crimes which he rights using mainly his wits and a lot of luck.

A creepy opening, a locked door murder, sets the scene for a complex mystery. It was well orchestrated, now let the story commence!

The Doctor and Clara follow an energy spike into Victorian London, not far from the base of Madam Vastra, Jenny and Strax. Feeling it is nothing, the Doctor declines to contact them, yet they are already investigating a mystery of their own.

Having to wait for another spike to be able to track it, the Doctor is soon sight seeing. The Frost Fair, a winter carnival, is in town, and draws the eager Clara and Doctor for a visit. The Carnival of Curiosities, a traditional magic and freak show, was also present within the fair, and soon they were exploring tents with strong men, shadow puppets and preserved creatures amongst other things.

During this time they bump into Jenny, also exploring, and get filled in on another local mystery. Soon the team is expanding, their goals are being set and they have a list of suspects… but who are the puppets and who is the puppet master?

I found the writing of this to be beautifully done, dropping little snippets of Victorian London into the scenes without stopping the story to fill pages with descriptions. These were well placed to progress the story, such as the use of the smog of the time to make the characters lose people they are following. The longer descriptions were stunning in their imagery. "As it drew nearer, she held out her arm, the scarlet material hanging down from it like a shimmering waterfall of blood. […] Dark ink smudged and smeared, and dripped into the white snow. Like blood from a wound."

At the quarter mark of the novel, two mysteries were being investigated by teams, for many scenes Jenny and Clara were working together while the Doctor was off doing some jiggery pokery or digging around where he shouldn't be. It was nice to get to know Jenny better as her own person, not as a side to Madam Vastra. I did feel this left Clara uncharacteristically decisive and trusting of others however, without the Doctor to keep her in check with the time period. For the most part Madam Vastra struck out on her own, only connecting for short intelligence sharing sessions. I would have liked to see her more. Strax was his typical self, if it wasn't of use dispose of it! Seeing the team try to convince him why they should use techniques other than 'slaughter everything in sight' was amusing to say the least.

The mystery clipped along at a good pace, helped by short chapters, many split into scenes within, making it feel reminiscent of an episode. I enjoyed the speed and constant twists and turns, never knowing who the bad guy was or who to trust. I did feel however it would have benefitted from some group discussion scenes, probably with tea and maybe snacks, much like the episodes. Those breaks and seeing everyone together I'd expected after watching these people in action together, and was left slightly disappointed. Nevertheless Clara and Jenny's breaks in the refreshments tent did give some sense of a break to give the reader a breather.

The finale was exciting and unexpected, up until the last page I was unsure what to expect. I felt for some of the characters left behind and would like to see them pop up in the future to see how the abnormalitiesthe story left them with are affecting them.

I haven't decided if this Doctor has a catchphrase yet so let's just say "alons-y and geronimo" into the next hair-brained adventure!

As for the likeness to the characters on TV:
Strax: just perfect
Jenny: while I love madam Vastra it was nice to get a sense of Jenny when she didn't feel on duty, both alone and talking with Clara who she seems to consider more of a social equal
Vastra: interested to see her reactions but felt she was a little soft

Clara: much closer to her previous series personality than the current one. I preferred this portrayal
The Doctor: close, but I felt a bit snippier than in the series. However, given this was released around the same time as the early episodes I felt a very nice job from the author given the limited material they'd have had

The 411
This was a good early outing for the twelfth Doctor and crew. It was good to have the Paternoster Row gang present to act as a buffer, and add more variety. The mystery was deeply interwoven, complex and offered many opportunities to see a different side to the characters. The ending was unexpected.

I would have liked to have seen everybody together discussing, but I felt the breaks offered while walking and talking offered an acceptable alternative.

For the story I give a 4
For the character likeness I give a 4
For the writing I give a 5

Overall I give this novel a 4,5 and round to a 4 for reviewing sites. I look forward to many more novels to come

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