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Book Review

Book Cover

The Undertaker's Gift (Hardback)


Author: Trevor Baxendale
BBC Books
RRP: £6.99, US $11.99
ISBN: 978 1 846 07782 1
Available 01 October 2009

The Hokrala Corp lawyers are back. They're suing planet Earth for mishandling the twenty-first century, and they won't tolerate any efforts to repel them. An assassin has been sent to remove Captain Jack Harkness. It's been a busy week in Cardiff. The Hub's latest guest is a translucent, amber jelly carrying a lethal electrical charge. Record numbers of aliens have been coming through the Rift, and Torchwood could do without any more problems. But there are reports of an extraordinary funeral cortege in the night-time city, with mysterious pallbearers guarding a rotting cadaver that simply doesn't want to be buried. Torchwood should be ready for anything - but with Jack the target of an invisible killer. Gwen trapped in a forgotten crypt and Ianto Jones falling desperately ill, could be a world off suffering be the Undertaker's gift to planet Earth...?

I couldn't help but feel that The Undertaker's Gift was a bit of a missed opportunity. All the ingredients are here to make an interesting Torchwood tale, but something just seemed lacking. It could be that, once again, the story is stretched to breaking point, or it could be that the ending feels like a bit of a cheat, but I found this tale to be a little on the lumpy side.

Without spoiling too much, there's an interesting segment of the book, quite near the end, which has a character that really could have been more central to the book. Gwen discovers the body of a man who fought in World War I. He's being kept artificially alive, but his body has almost rotted away to nothing. It's a shame that he wasn't introduced earlier, as he's quite an interesting character and If we'd got to know him better (maybe introduced to him while Gwen was trapped in the dark without realising he was a rotting body - simply hearing his voice before we saw him) then maybe Gwen's dilemma at the end may have been a little more understandable.

There were other elements that felt like missed opportunities, such as one of the newly introduced main characters seeing the ghostly funeral and witnessing something unspeakably scary in the coffin. This is dragged on for ages and we never really discover until later what this horrible sight was. A little too much build up leaves this feeling a little flat.

Having said that, this is still an enjoyable read, just not one of the best the series has produced.


Darren Rea

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