The Eighth Doctor's dreams have been infiltrated, and the
TARDIS's defences have been breached by - Nothing. The ship
lands in New Orleans, where the crew attempt to find a connection
between these strange occurrences and a magical charm sculpted
from human bone, which the Doctor has found amongst his possessions...
a couple of opening scenes that take place in mental rather
than physical domains - a magician's conscious thoughts and
the Doctor's nightmares - our introduction to New Orleans
is so abrupt and surreal that at first I didn't realise the
Doctor had actually stopped dreaming. The author thrusts us
into a culture in which various esoteric beliefs are widely
given credence, where we find a detective investigating a
murder in a shop that specialises in human bones and other
trinkets relating to the dead. I then wondered whether this
story might be set in the same magical universe as that of
Battlefield's Arthur and Morgaine, which was also used
as the setting for Julian Eales's supernatural detective story,
Mysterious Ways, in the charity fiction anthology Perfect
this book is set very much in "our" universe. In a not dissimilar
way to Live and Let Die, it reflects the superstitions
that permeate New Orleans, with its rich mixture of cultural
influences, including Cajun and Creole. For instance, a Tarot
card reading accurately describes the Doctor's former incarnations.
The TARDIS crew encounter a range of eccentric characters,
including a blustering showman and a deranged artist, each
of whom has dabbled with forces that, although the Third Doctor
might have pedantically objected to the term "magic", are
certainly beyond the realm of human science.
Tarot reading is one of a number of sequences that evoke the
novels of Paul Cornell. In another such scene, the sleeping
Doctor disturbs his subconscious former self, whom he does
not recognise, but his old memories remain out of his reach.
makes numerous references back to the Doctor's 100-year convalescence
on 20th-century Earth. (These include a name check of the
Doctor's "daughter", Miranda, from Lance Parkin's Father
Time. Hopefully this could mean that we won't have to
wait too long for her return, or at least a flashback novel
to her time with the Doctor - how about it, BBC Books?) The
author also reminds us of the Time Lord's present condition,
and compares and contrasts his situation with that of the
villain of the piece. Whereas the Doctor lacks many of his
memories and therefore most of his history, the magician who
stalks him is cursed by his own past deeds and the history
of his family. Fleeting remembrances continue to surface unbidden
in the Doctor's mind, which makes you wonder just how much
longer his amnesia is going to last...
tale takes a particularly weird turn during its last 70-odd
pages, as the identity of the villain becomes clear and the
Doctor becomes ensnared in one bizarre realm after another.
is indeed a kind of magic to this book.