Titan, out now
Stuck in Victorian London, Alex Locke wonders if he will ever find his lost daughter – or return to his own time…
The middle part of a trilogy is always a tricky beast for writer and reader: it has to deal with some, but not all of the questions posed in the opening instalment; it needs to tell a story of its own, that provides a satisfying experience; and it needs to set everything up for the final part – ideally with a cliffhanger (either in terms of plot or character) that will entice the reader back for a third purchase. Mark Morris achieves success on all these fronts: we learn more about the obsidian heart at the…er, heart of the tale, seeing it in action, but still not fully understanding what it is that makes it work, or why it chooses to assist at some times but not others. We meet the unusual Mr Willoughby, and encounter the titular deadly peril; and the quandaries of time travel become key to the plot – with a discussion of a particular phenomenon that serendipitously has also turned up (with guitar accompaniment) in this season’s Doctor Who. And as for the cliffhanger… well, yes, it’s one that will be interesting to see resolved.
Morris evokes the atmosphere (both figurative and literal) of London in the 19th century – although the constant repetition about the smell of the place becomes a little overbearing at times and perhaps could have been trimmed a little – and there’s an interesting unconscious comparison between 21st century people’s reactions to that time period, and the reverse situation (one comes across negatively, the other perhaps over positively – although this may be setting something up for the final book). There are plenty of moments of terror and horror which are told in an unsettling manner, with a visceral feel to some that brings home the insanity of proceedings, but there is also a very deliberate strengthening sense of family as the book progresses.
Verdict: A well-written, intricately plotted time travel tale with more than a hint of (Hinchcliffe era Doctor Who) Gothic horror. 9/10