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The English Way of Death

By Gareth Roberts

Book review by Dinshaw Mistry

A charmingly manic - or even manically charming - novel, The English Way of Death will definitely please Fourth Doctor fans. The setting is 1930's London, a familiar backdrop for the Doctor, and the adventure takes place on the run from (you guessed it) the Black Guardian.

Roberts has obviously done his homework on the style of the fourth Doctor's era, and fans will notice the offbeat enthusiasm right from the start. This is played off Romana and K9 with pretty much the same straight man/funny man routine as the series, though occasionally Romana has a laugh of her own as well. Even more impressive than the faithful portrayal of these old friends however are the new characters that populate the novel. More than just a backdrop for the Doctor to work against, Roberts uses these engaging and sometimes wacky characters for some of the funniest moments. Percy Closed is almost as strange as the Doctor himself, though his character is somewhat diluted by the end, while Felicia Chater and Colonel Radlett's farcical interplay is just purely comical.

The villain Zodaal and his host-bodies do not disappoint either. With cries of, 'I must eat your brains,' and a plan to destroy the world, yet again, they show just how cool B-grade can be. Isn't Zodaal just the greatest name for a villain?

Having said all this though, the story does have some marked weaknesses, the plot being the main one. To say it doesn't twist would be an understatement; it barely manages the odd rhumba. I suppose this can be excused; fourth Doctor stories were rarely up to the sheer confusion of seventh Doctor stories such as Ghost Light. The plot does allow for an interesting insight into the relationship between Romana and the Doctor though. Overall, this novel was a lot of fun to read, and that being the most important thing, I'd heartily recommend it to all. Enjoy.

This item appeared in TSV 47 (April 1996).

Index nodes: The English Way of Death