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Business Unusual

By Gary Russell

Book review by Paul Scoones

At last Mel gets her own joining story. Gary Russell has taken as gospel everything that we know about Mel (even down to her character outline published in Companions) and built her up into a character with a family, friends and aspirations. Mel is one of my least favourite companions, and yet Gary has written her so convincingly - even down to a painfully accurate description of Bonnie Langford's grating speech patterns - and imbued the character with such life that I find myself hoping that the author will see fit to provide us with another Mel adventure.

Likewise, the controversial sixth Doctor is rendered most likeable in Gary's highly readable prose. Business Unusual is set after the sixth Doctor's last television outing, and sees him in a somewhat mellow frame of mind, troubled by the prospect of becoming the Valeyard and understandably reluctant to adopt Mel (whom he has previously met in her future) as his travelling companion, as this seems to him to be the first step on the road to becoming the Valeyard.

The novel also features the welcome return of the Brigadier, still teaching maths but accepting assignments from UNIT between school terms. The Brigadier's involvement in the plot is remarkably slight, since he is under lock and key for most of the story, and yet this much-loved character's treatment at the hands of his captors makes compelling reading.

Business Unusual is remarkable for its continuity links with Gary's previous novel The Scales of Injustice. Evidently the BBC Books authors who are crossing over from the Virgin range are free to bring with them the characters and situations they developed in previous novels, which is a good sign for readers such as myself who are keen to see the spirit of the Virgin series kept alive. [4/5]

This item appeared in TSV 52 (November 1997).

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