Benny and Jason are on holiday, a suspiciously luxurious
holiday that Jason has arranged. A holiday of sun, sea, sand...
and intrusive reality-TV camera crews...
I first heard that Professor Bernice Summerfield would be
appearing in a sequence of novellas, I had envisaged a series
of individual and rather slim volumes. Instead we have this
210-page collection of three linked novellas under one cover,
which is certainly more economical for the paying customer.
first story, Zardox Break by Dave Stone, is a decidedly
light-hearted and frivolous affair. It isn't much of a story
in its own right, but it's entertaining enough. The author
makes lots of characteristically intellectual jokes on topics
ranging from the commonly misconstrued meaning of the phrase
"without price" to the four asterisks that occasionally appear
at the foot of the page. He is even more explicit about his
"people are stupid, apart from you of course, dear reader
- you are clearly intelligent, since you are reading this
book" attitude than usual.
Brax is on Earth, helping an old friend solve a political
problem. Meanwhile, Adrian and Bev are on a secret mission,
trying to operate subtly and undercover. Yeah, that'll work...
Overlapping the events of the previous story and the one to
follow in terms of its timeline, The Purpura Pawn,
by Paul Sutton, deals with some of the other regulars from
the Summerfield series: Irving Braxiatel, Adrian Wall
and Bev Tarrant. Bernice herself only "appears" on one page,
while in communication with Brax. I thought for a moment that
Benny's former fellow traveller Ace had also appeared, but
the character in question turns out to be a ruthless assassin
is a more serious work than Stone's, dealing with subjects
such as gambling debts, art theft and street violence, though
there is the occasional comic moment, such as when Bev uses
an A-Team-type ploy to get Adrian to board a flight
to Earth. I found this story hard going for much of the time,
and it is my least favourite segment of the collection, though
it does contain a vivid depiction of a gambling addict's point
And linking all of these little sojourns is the trial of
Jason Kane. He is accused of murder and the theft of a legendary
artefact called the Purpura Pawn...
contrast, I found the final entry, Joseph Lidster's On
Trial, the most enjoyable and rewarding of the bunch.
This story within a story, in which a playwright with a mission
looks back upon the events surrounding Jason's trial, which
itself looks back upon the mysterious death of a crucial political
figure, makes reading the first two stories all the more worthwhile.
This is, on several levels, a search for the truth, which
leads to the uncomfortable conclusion that the unbiased "truth"
is either difficult or impossible to find.
the true culprit isn't spelled out to us, there are strong
clues with sinister connections to the regular characters
that we know and love, and links back to the audio drama Professor
Bernice Summerfield and the Mirror Effect.
tale also has its lighter moments, though: particularly when
a barmaid proves to be something of a Vicky Pollard soundalike!
Thanks primarily to Lidster's contribution, this is a memorable
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