Doctor Who
The Deadstone Memorial

Author: Trevor Baxendale
BBC Books
RRP 5.99
ISBN 0 563 48622 8
Available 04 October 2004

A young boy's night terrors take a frightening turn when he begins to behave as if possessed. Will the Doctor, Fitz and Trix be able to help the family, and what is the connection with the Deadstone Memorial, a mysterious gravestone in the nearby woods...?

BBC Books seem to be obsessed with ensuring that almost all of their Doctor Who novels run to exactly 288 pages. Thankfully, they don't abridge them to fit, but they do alter the point size of the text. Therefore, Steve Lyons's The Witch Hunters is printed in fairly large type, whereas the text in this book is much smaller than average (though not as tiny as that used in Lawrence Miles's The Adventuress of Henrietta Street). Virgin Publishing, on the other hand, used to simply adjust the page counts of its New and Missing Adventures accordingly, which gave you a much better idea of the length of story that awaited you.

I have to confess that I was a little daunted by the teeny type in The Deadstone Memorial. I feared that the book might prove to be a bit of a slog. I needn't have worried, though, for I found myself turning the pages at a faster, not slower, rate than usual. Despite - or, indeed, because of - the limited number of settings and characters that he uses, Baxendale has crafted a basic but compulsive and scary story.

The man who brought us the unnerving Who novels Fear of the Dark and Eater of Wasps skilfully manipulates archetypes such as sinister woods, which contain a curious memorial stone; a creepy old man in a cottage; an aggressive Gypsy; and a single parent family that is being torn apart by the disturbed - and disturbing - behaviour of its youngest child, Cal. There are a fair few Exorcist and Sapphire and Steel moments in this book, as Cal speaks in strange voices, spews green vomit, and his eyes turn completely black, though the characters themselves acknowledge the similarities to the aforementioned movie classic.

Page for page, the plot progresses at a rather sedate pace, but that doesn't really matter because the book is so atmospheric.

This makes dead good bedtime reading - but try not to have nightmares!

Richard McGinlay

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