It’s Christmas! And what better at Christmas than an atmospheric snow-covered Victorian London detective story? Well an atmospheric snow-covered Victorian London detective story featuring everyone’s favourite Silurian about town Madame Vastra, her ever faithful partner Jenny and the once nursemaid Sontaran Strax, that’s what!
Luckily that’s exactly what you get from the latest ebook offering from BBC Books, Devil in the Smoke, written by Justin Richards.
The story draws nicely from familiar tropes of the genre, drawing playful comparisons with Sherlock Holmes, and indulging in scenes of deduction worthy of Holmes himself. The writing style too is evocative of the type of tale it’s mirroring, with the occasional use of language more often found in a Dickensian novel.
These elements pull together rather well to create a cohesive story that effectively builds the world it’s so desperately trying to draw the reader into. Good, perhaps, given this story is quite obviously in essence a prelude to the upcoming Christmas special, The Snowmen.
In Devil in the Smoke we’re welcomed into the world that Madame Vastra and her gang (yes, gang) now inhabit. It’s a world we were first introduced to in the Children in Need scene aired last month, and one elaborated on here. Taking what we have already learned about the characters, it quite literally runs with it, expanding and building in pleasing ways, such as Strax’s apparent continuing vendetta with the Moon and the “Moonites”!
The true joy in this story is the wonderful way that Richards manages to capture the essence of the characters, with dialogue that’s both warm and believable, and that of Strax being a particular highlight.
The story leaves you wanting to see more of the adventures of the Great Detective and the team at Paternoster Row, creating a true anticipation for their return to our screens next week with the man himself.