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Book Review

Book Cover

Doctor Who
The Crimson Horror (Paperback)


Author: Mark Gatiss
Publisher: BBC Books
178 pages
RRP: UK £7.99, US $10.99, Cdn $16.99
ISBN: 978 1 78594 504 5
Publication Date: 11 March 2021

The Crimson Horror was part of Matt Smiths run, as the Doctor, in the show's seventh series. The show was written by Mark Gatiss, who has now adapted his own script for Target books.

The novelisation, contains two mysteries, the first an original short story. The main protagonists, as in the show, are Madam Vastra, Jenny and Strax, a trio which was introduced in ‘A Good Man Goes to War’. Both the stories in the novelisation are set in Victorian England.

The first and new story starts with a grisly murder, not an oddity in Victorian times, but the manner of death and a note on the headless body leads Vastra and Jenny to a talent competition, where everything is not what it seems. Not unlike The main story, this is mainly told from the perspective of Vastra, Jenny and Strax, with the bulk of the chapters devoted to Jenny’s POV.

In the main story, the Paternoster Gang are tasked to travel to Yorkshire, where an apparently utopian workers community hides a secret. Infiltrated by Jenny, she discovers the Doctor chained and bound, hardly himself. Together they unravel the secret of Sweetville and the answer to why bodies, which glow red, are turning up in the local river.

There is little doubt that Gatiss is a good writer. Starting at an early age he has amassed an impressive list of writing credits, most notably on Doctor Who, both for the television series and original novels and Sherlock. So, it is not going to be a big surprise that his adaptation of his own screenplay is superb.

I particularly enjoyed the era-centric use of language and the way that he is able to capture the tone and rhythm of his characters voices, especially Jenny whose intonation is so good it’s like listening to the character.

Novelisations are by their nature, slight things, but that does not mean that they cannot be good or bad, and Gatiss has produced a fine one.


Charles Packer

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