Caroline "Laska" Darnell is admitted to a psychiatric hospital
following her latest suicide attempt. To her horror, she recognises
the place from nightmares about an old building haunted by
a ghostly dog. The mysterious Dr Smith is fascinated by Laska's
dreams, but can Laska trust the Doctor...?
wolf-like creature depicted on the cover had me half-expecting
a sequel to Jacqueline Rayner's Wolfsbane, but that
was not to be. In fact, the creatures described in this novel
are far more fearsome. Black Sheep's cover design does little
to convey the rotting, bloated, bloodstained horror of Martin
Day's creations, which, incidentally, have green, not yellow,
a fan-hooking prologue in which a psychiatric patient claims
to be an alien time traveller, the first third of the book
spends hardly any time at all with the TARDIS crew of the
Eighth Doctor, Fitz and Trix. Instead the author focuses on
establishing his guest characters, especially the troubled
Laska. This is probably a wise move, because he has two sets
of characters to introduce.
addition to the main narrative, set in the Retreat in the
present day, a parallel storyline, conveyed via a series of
diary entries by a doctor and a priest, tells of events that
took place a century ago, when the institution was known as
Mausolus House. There is a foreboding sense of history repeating
itself as, for instance, dog walkers each lose one of their
pets in both the 1903 and 2004 narratives, and, later on,
a murder takes place. The structure of the novel is not repetitive
or predictable, though. Sometimes the "mirrored" event occurs
first in the 1903 segment; on other occasions the 2004 segment
takes the lead.
the Doctor and co finally come to the fore, their previous
absence makes their presence all the more effective. The Time
Lord in particular, as seen through Laska's eyes, is a powerful
and enigmatic - almost frightening - figure. The Eighth Doctor
displays a psychoanalytical sixth sense that he has rarely
exhibited since his debut in the 1996 TV movie. Thanks to
his determined interest in Laska, he teaches the patient to
trust other people once again.
be honest, this is not the most riveting Doctor Who novel
I have read this year. However, it is undeniably well written
- apart from an over-abundance of last-minute explanations
at the end.
well worth reading... and if you don't agree, well, then,
I fear for your sanity!
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