BBC Books, out 18 December
The Great Detective and her friends investigate a strange case of murder…
The second ebook prequel (released a week ahead of the episode it accompanies this time, rather than just behind it!) continues the adventures of Madame Vastra, Jenny and Strax, as seen in the mini-sode for Children in Need last month. Justin Richards is used to working in this sort of milieu, and introduces a young protagonist who works well as a point of entry for readers if they’re not up to speed with the set-up.
The relationship between Madame Vastra and Jenny has become the object of much fan fiction and speculation, but that’s not relevant to this story; rather like the animated Star Trek episodes, where Kirk’s prowess with the ladies was dropped because there wasn’t time to include it, this focuses firmly on the plot. Richards seems to have enjoyed writing Strax – he gets some wonderful lines, with his obsession with the Moonites continuing. Fans of Leslie Charteris’ character The Saint may well be reminded of his sidekick Hoppy Uniatz, who was very good at fighting and drinking, but left the thinking to those who were blessed with brains. Stax isn’t quite that stupid, but some of his theories should provoke a grin.
How much is being layered in for The Snowmen on Christmas Day is hard to judge at this stage, but there’s a definite hint of a chill about the final paragraph – which really should be a happy, joyful scene, but somehow isn’t.
Verdict: Written in an appropriately Victorian style (with a hidden reference to a certain well-known pathologist), this is a light enjoyable pre-Christmas treat. 8/10