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**Synopsis** (from back of book)
In 1920s London the Doctor and Rose find themselves caught up in the hunt for a mysterious murderer. But not everyone or everything is what they seem. Secrets lie behind locked doors and inhuman killers roam the streets.
Who is the Painted Lady and why is she so interested in the Doctor? How can a cat return from the dead? Can anyone be trusted to tell - or even to know - the truth?
With the faceless killers closing in, the Doctor and Rose must solve the mystery of the Clockwise Man before London itself is destroyed...
**Plot** (minor spoilers)
Being the very first of the New Adventure Doctor Who novels, this features the ninth Doctor (as played by Christopher Eccleston) and Rose Tyler. In my mind, this adventure takes place after "The Unquiet Dead" in series one, and this seems to fit as here, the Doctor and Rose seem to know each other quite well.
The book opens with the Doctor and Rose rescuing a servant from death by a mysterious, cloaked killer, having left the TARDIS in a disused scrap yard. Consequently, they are invited back to the servant's workplace, and get pally with the man of the house, Sir George. They decline his offer for dinner, and head back to the TARDIS, intent on staying for the British Empire exhibition the following day. However, when they return to the scrap yard, the TARDIS has disappeared. This leaves them with only one option: go back to Sir George's for dinner.
After the meal, there is a congregation in the library of Sir George's house, where we meet nearly all of the main players of the plot: Repple and Aske, two seemingly-normal men; Melissa Heart, otherwise known as the Painted Lady, and Freddie, Sir George's young step-son. It is here we overhear a secret, that whilst at the time seems important, does not really have much bearing on the plot.
With the TARDIS missing, there is nowhere for the Doctor and Rose to stay, and so Repple volunteers to vouch for them as guests at the Imperial Club further down the Thames. This is where most of the rest of the book takes place, as we see mysterious cats that can come back to life, menacing clockwork men, and the ever-affable Mr Wyse. The story moves on, with another attack on a servant - this time a maid named Beth who had attended to Rose the night before. Rose and the Doctor are determined to find out what's going on, and they think it has something to do with the Painted Lady - so called because she never shows her true face, but is always wearing a selection of painted masks.
The first half of the book is quite slow moving, as the mystery unfolds and the clues are laid. Who is behind the attacks? Why are they happening? And when Repple tells the Doctor one thing, and his friend Aske another, who should they believe? I had guessed by about two-thirds of the way through who was behind everything, but at that point I wasn't sure why or how.
The conclusion is a good one, and the revelation about Repple is quite creepy, and at the same time quite sad. Like all of the Doctor Who stories, the perpetrator is not of the Earth, and has some evil scheme that will destroy humanity, or in this case, London.
Keeping with the theme of clocks, the climax of the novel takes place in the clock tower of Big Ben, and whilst this action scene is very good and very detailed, I couldn't help but wish for it to hurry up and end.
I'm not too sure how much the Doctor Who novels have to do with the television series, but it seems strange to me that the apparent bad-guys in this book are clockwork, and then a similar baddie turns up in the series two episode "The Girl in the Fireplace". However, it did make it a lot easier to picture what the mechanical men looked like.
This is a pretty good Doctor Who story, and whilst the ending did drag a little, everything was resolved and tied up neatly. I like the way Richards includes real, historical events (in this case, the story of the Romanov's), though this is just mentioned in passing. It's written well, and is relatively short, so is a quick read.
Justin Richards' novel suffers perhaps of being written prior to the new series airing, as though he'd have undoubtedly seen the series, the characterisation of the Doctor isn't quite right. Nine in the television series is slightly snappy, slightly mad, but fiercely protective of Rose. Nine in this novel just doesn't quite fit with what we've seen in the television series, and I can't put my finger on what is wrong, but it's there, and it's nagging.
Rose, however, is written as she comes across in the series; compassionate and kind, caring more for others than she does for herself, and curious to a fault. However, some of the forcefulness of her character is slightly missing here.
Repple, who at first seems relatively unimportant but comes to play a larger part, is an interesting character. We're told several conflicting stories about his past, and this makes it hard to understand him, but in the end you do feel very sorry and quite sad about his situation.
Melissa Heart - the Painted Lady - is an odd one. It's as though Richards wanted to use the stereotype of the domineering, beautiful, evil woman, and in most ways he succeeds. Where this character falls down, however, is her secret of what is behind the mask. As a reader we are never explicitly shown (though we get an inkling) of what is behind her many masks, and because of this I think the character suffers.
Freddie, the young boy who helps Rose and the Doctor is a sweet character. He's your typical have-a-go hero, not content with doing as he's told and staying at home but preferring to tag along and help. There's quite a sad scene with Freddie and Rose near the end, where Freddie has cut himself and it is revealed he suffers from hemophilia.
Other characters in the book - Sir George, the servants Crowther and Dickson amongst them - are written well enough for background characters, but they aren't developed that much, as is perhaps expected.
Author: Justin Richards
Price: £5.99 (RRP)
This is a good read, however, it suffers from being the very first in the series, obviously written before we'd got to know the Doctor and Rose on screen. The plot, whilst a little thin in places, is good and will keep you reading until the end.
Book Series: Doctor Who