Justin Richards has been involved with Doctor Who books since the early 90s and the days of the Virgin New Adventures. With over 20 novels, short stories, and audio plays, he knows his way around a Doctor Who story. Silhouette plays to his strengths. Richards has shown a fondness for Victorian England as a setting both in Doctor Who and his other novels, and for the past few seasons, Victorian London has increasingly felt akin to Doctor Who’s home base replacing the contemporary England of the Russell T. Davis Years. This is in no small part due to the popularity of Madame Vastra, Jenny, and Strax.
All three are present and correct in the novel, which allows Richards to more fully explore Jenny and most especially Strax. Madame Vastra, the Great Detective herself, was slightly dampened in print. This may, perhaps, have more to do with the size of the cast Richards had to handle. Apart from the Paternoster Gang, Richards also had to help introduce the new Tardis team of Clara and the Twelfth Doctor. As is often the case with novels early in a Doctor’s run, this version of the Twelfth Doctor is more of a sketch than a fully rounded incarnation. Richards does his best to capture the sense of Capaldi based largely, one assumes, on scripts and early episode cuts. He is largely distinct from his predecessors and effort has clearly been made to distinguish him, but he occasionally falls back into a more generic Doctor mode that is common in the novels.
The London of the novel is mostly concentrated on The Carnival of Curiosities and the factory of the mysterious Orestes Milton. Milton is a reasonably effective foe and his allies including the titular Silhouette are suitably creepy. This is very much Doctor Who by numbers, enlivened by the interactions among the five main characters and the early efforts to capture Capaldi in print.
Justin Richards is as experienced and safe a pair of Doctor Who hands as can be found. Like all his novels, Silhouette is a well told, good old-fashioned Doctor Who story, but one that never quite manages any more than that. It doesn’t even quite reach the heights of some of Richards’ own previous efforts.
**Received copy from NetGalley for Review
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