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Book Review

Book Cover

Doctor Who
The Ruby's Curse (Hardback)


Author: Alex Kingston with Jacqueline Rayner
Publisher: BBC Books
273 pages
RRP: £16.99, US $23.99, Cdn $35.99
ISBN: 978 1 78594 713 1
Publication Date: 20 May 2021

I must admit to not having too many high expectations of The Rudy Curse: A River Song/Melody Malone Mystery (273 pages). The novel is written by Alex Kingston, who played the titular character in Doctor Who, and Jacqueline Rayner.

Rayner is well versed in the Who universe having written extensively for both audio dramas and original novels. Whilst Kingston has an impressive track record in both film and television, she is not known as a writer.

River has had, to say the least, a complicated journey, one that it is easy to get lost in. As the child of Amy and Rory, she was born in the Tardis and so has certain Timelord traits. Thankfully, the book is written in such a way that you do not need an extensive background in Doctor Who or River herself. That is not to say if you do have that knowledge, then you’re going to get a lot more out of the story.

The story opens with River breaking back into the Stormcage, the most secure prison in the universe, having been originally incarcerated for murder. Thankfully, much of this backstory is either omitted or only tangentially addressed. What is established is that River has been writing a series of popular detective novels to support her parents who are stuck in 1939. River breaks back in for some peace to finish her latest book.

Unfortunately for her, another prisoner, Ventrian, has not only been jailed for something he will not initially disclose, but worse keeps interrupting her. To solve this problem and to gain his trust River starts telling him the story she is writing.

For the reader, this means the meta-novel uses two fonts to distinguish between what is happening to River and the passages that make up her book, The Ruby’s Curse. River soon discovers that there are parallels between the real and fictional world and events will eventually make those two worlds collide.

Melody’s novel is written like a hard-bitten detective novel, with Melody on the hunt for a missing cursed Rudy, which is believed to have belonged to Cleopatra. This portion involves murder and intrigue, centred on the return of the ruby. Meanwhile, in River's world, she discovers that Ventrian had also discovered a Ruby-like object, on an abandoned world.

This alien artefact is powerful enough to be a galaxy killer and it has a mind of its own. The story weaves its narrative through ancient Egypt, Rome, the far-flung future and thirties New York and for what is a complicated plot, the book keeps all the plates spinning to a dramatic and tragic ending.

The book sets itself in the Who universe by small references to people and places already established. That said, the endless side references to the Doctor did start to grate after a while. It was as if the writer felt that they needed to name drop to keep Who fans onboard to what is a very decent River Song adventure.


Charles Packer

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