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The Wages of Sin

By David A. McIntee

Book review by Brad Schmidt

It seems to be David A. McIntee's penchant lately to create new, unlikely character combinations for an adventure. The Wages of Sin is an addition to this theme, placing the officious Professor Liz Shaw and the clumsy Jo Grant together alongside the Third Doctor, who usually reserves different character facets for each companion. Thankfully, there is no internal clash of behaviour for him, as the travellers each pursue their own agenda for much of the novel.

Russia, 1916, is an interesting location in which to set a Third Doctor novel, considering the institution which he is so often a part of is, in this time, a shady establishment. As is the norm with historicals, a key figure takes the role of the villain - in this case Father Grigory Rasputin, whom interestingly the Doctor rarely meets.

Reading McIntee's work is a risky venture; rarely do I find his novels greatly compelling. However, as The Wages of Sin shows, when it's good, it's very good. At first, like historicals in general and McIntee's previous work, it is as arduous a novel to follow as the Russian wilderness is to navigate, but soon becomes caught in the momentum of history. Despite the fact it is extremely atypical for the Pertwee era, I could easily picture The Wages of Sin as a televison production.

The most compelling of the characters - and there are far too many to choose from - is Prince Felix Yusupov. Not only does one feel sympathy for his plight in the intricacies of the Monarchy, but also for being a victim of McIntee's insipid characterisation - the same problem being as always with the author's work, that it is too formulaic and unnatural. There are indeed several recurring problems with his work that cry out for address.

Towards the end, it was tempting to picture Rasputin as played by Anthony Ainley, simply because the character kept returning to life, rather impossibly in the circumstances. The end is horrible, not through any fault of McIntee's, but because of the gruesome unfolding of the recorded, tragic, events.

The Wages of Sin is challenging, emotionally and intellectually, and because of the level of concentration demanded, it's noticeable that the epilogue is altogether pointless and jarring. All said, though, it's still an interesting read, even though it seems to be more like a textbook at times than a Doctor Who novel. [4/5]

This item appeared in TSV 57 (July 1999).

Index nodes: The Wages of Sin