“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? As the Doctor and Clara joint the hunt for the truth they find themselves thrust into a world where nothing and no one are what they seem.
Thanks to Netgalley and Random House/Ebury Publishing for the review copy.
Justin Richards is a name that should be very familiar to readers of Doctor Who novels. He has penned some of the best stories I read while the Doctor was on his extended break between 1989 and 2005. I highly recommend The Burning which also has one of the best covers ever), Grave Matter (6th Doctor and Peri story that I remember enjoying very much) and he also contributes to the Big Finish audio range – Time of the Daleks being another personal favourite. Quite simply, Justin Richards is an accomplished Doctor Who writer.
Silhouette maintains his high standard. The Doctor and Clara are in Victorian London, as we see from the introduction they are once again joined by Strax, Vastra and Jenny. So with the gang all in place attention turns to matters at hand. Mr Marlowe Hapworth dead in his study – a locked room murder as there is no possible way that he could have stabbed himself between the shoulder blades while sitting at his desk.
Investigations soon lead The Doctor to the local sideshow and the Carnival of Curiosities. I found Richards painted a vivid description of a damp and foggy London and the Carnival was brilliantly described giving the feeling of colourful splashes in the gloomy city.
The titular Silhouette is a master at the art of shadow plays and her origami birds (an art not known in London at the time the story is set) enchant the carnival audiences – her skills seem almost unworldly. Certainly The Doctor is keen to learn how she weaves her magic.
As always I will not spoil the plot lines but there were some lovely touches sprinkled throughout the story – Silhouettes origami birds are as dangerous as they are pretty. Strax makes friends with the carnival strongman and Vastra encounters a very familiar face.
When the reveal of the villain arrived I was delighted to find that I had been well off the mark with my guesses as to where the story was heading. The motivation for the murders was explained and I enjoyed the twist which defined how victims had been selected and what was taken from them that would benefit the bad guys…no clues.
In the end I can honestly say that the 12th Doctor range is still looking good. I have now read two books of the initial three that are available with just The Crawling Terror to go. The Blood Cell still stands tall as my favourite as James Goss really captured Peter Capaldi’s Doctor. But with The Crawling Terror to come next there is still fun to be had.