by Terrence Dicks
I don't usually review science fiction and never before reviewed a Doctor Who novel. I am a huge fan of the television series. Many of the books, unfortunately, are either confusing, contain a lot of low points, or just don't keep my interest. This one, however, was quite different in that it had a private investigator as a major character, adding a bit of mystery. So, I ask for your indulgence on this rare foray into a review of this type of book.
A private investigator in Prohibition Era Chicago is asked by Al Capone to check upon a new player in town. This persona, known as Doc (in reality a Timelord called the Doctor) has opened a new speakeasy. This is not good in a town run by mobsters who have a habit of warring with each other.
Meanwhile, Bernice Summerfield, one of the Doctor's companions is on an alien planet once ruled by vampire overlords. Tensions are high between the villagers who are content with governmening themselves and the Lords, who seek to have dominance. When Bernice runs afoul of a strange creature in the vampire's former lair, it appears as if the pestilence has returned from the undead. And who is the enigmatic woman who seeks to aid Bernice?
While war seems inevitable between the mobsters on Earth and between the factions in which Bernice is in the middle of, shadowy figures lurk behind the curtains of both scenes. Individuals whose intent is the destruction of the Doctor.
This is touted as a sequel to the television episode entitled State of Decay where the 4th Doctor and Romana face vampires. Added to the mix is are the scenes in gangster land Chicago. I'musually wary about sequels, but it's not just a return to the vampire planet and there is the mystery of unnamed individuals. I found it easy to follow and a good plot to satisfy Who fans. And I am one.
The Doctor: the '7th' Doctor, Scottish burr, short, Timelord, uses the moniker John Smith
Dorothy 'Ace' Gale McShane: the Doctor's companion, tough, brunette, tough, likes explosives
Dekker: Private investigator, smokes, drinks
Al Capone: mobster in Chicago
Bernice 'Benny' Summerfield: one of the Doctor's companions, archeologist but was expelled from university before she received credentials
Lady Romanadvoratelundar: former companion of the 4th Doctor, Timelord, long- fair-haired, high forehead
Personally, I want to name my first daughter Romanadvoratrelundar. Awesome name! This story, unlike some other Who novels have characters I like. Even the bad guys, though somewhat typical, are good. They didn't bore me. Of course with Who books, I see the characters as they were portrayed on television.
Adequate attempt at capturing the gangsters' voices as well as the natives of the planet. Good use of the local lingo of the time.
Sometimes Doctor Who books become too technical, as if the author wants to show off his/her science or physics knowledge. This one easy to follow, which is what I look for in not just Doctor Who books, but in other sci-fi stories. I'm not a fanatic of sci-fi and one has to really capture my interest for me to read. This one had a good blend of lightheartedness and suspenseful tension. This moved well with nothing dragging and no difficult to understand technological gab. Good use of time-period slang (pineapple for grenade, doll). The PI wears the typical trench coat and fedora. (Of course I'm not complaining because the PI in MY books wears the trench and hat.) First person POV when it's Dekker's scenes.