Doctor Who
Instruments of Darkness

Author: Gary Russell
BBC Books
RRP 5.99, US $6.95, Cdn $8.99
ISBN 0 563 53828 7
Available 05 November 2001

Humans gifted with ESP have been recruited by a secret society known as the Magnate. But an even greater power, an extra-terrestrial and inter-dimensional one, has also been recruiting. Meanwhile, in the Peak District village of Halcham, a pair of Autons called Ciara and Cellian are seeking to redeem themselves

And in addition to the secret society, the aliens and their various followers, the author has also thrown in the Sixth Doctor, Melanie Bush, Trey Korte (Mel's telepathic American friend from Russell's Business Unusual) and Evelyn Smythe (the Sixth Doctor's companion in several Big Finish productions). To say that Russell has over-egged the pudding would be something of an understatement. To make matters more complex, the events in this book are closely tied in with those of Business Unusual, which was published four long years ago, and Russell's Third Doctor Missing Adventure, The Scales of Injustice, which last saw print in 1996. That is a long time to wait before picking up the loose threads that are Ciara, Cellian and Trey.

Evelyn briefly rejoins the Doctor for this adventure having been left behind on Earth some time ago. Establishing her previous departure in this way is a bit of a shame for Big Finish listeners, because now they know that Evelyn is always going to survive whatever dangers she faces in her audio adventures. It also seems as though the author has written her into his book simply as a gimmick - this is her first appearance in a novel and also her first meeting with Mel, and Evelyn's presence has little real bearing on the plot. On the plus side, her scenes with Mel make truly delightful reading as the two companions compare and contrast their respective relationships with the Doctor. The Time Lord has more in common with Evelyn than with most of his other assistants, including Mel, although this doesn't always make for a cosy partnership!

The connections between the various other characters often seem tenuous and difficult to grasp, with a great deal of intrigue and obfuscation going on. The large number of "prologues" doesn't help matters, either. Then suddenly, towards the end of the novel, a confusingly large amount of information is dumped on the reader. The conclusion is therefore muddled, although the implied identity of the mysterious amnesiac Magnate operative John Doe proves jolly amusing.

This book has plenty of good moments, but as a whole it is rather unsatisfying.

Richard McGinlay

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