Madame Vastra, the fabled Lizard Woman of Paternoster Row, knew death in many shapes and forms. But perhaps one of the most bizarre of these was death by snow... On a cold day in December, two young boys, tired of sweeping snow from the workhouse yard, decide to build a snowman - and are confronted with a strange and grisly mystery. In horrified fascination, they watch as their snowman begins to bleed... The search for answers to this impossible event will plunge Harry into the most hazardous - and exhilarating - adventure of his life. He will encounter a hideous troll. He will dine with a mysterious parlour maid. And he will help the Great Detective, Madame Vastra, save the world from the terrifying Devil in the Smoke.
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The story is wonderfully written, with Richards getting all the characters spot on, giving each their own role in the smoke-shrouded environs of Paternoster Row. There are no passengers here! And as for Harry, one of the cheeky Workhouse East End lads, he is a perfect example of how the story both apes and revels in its atmosphere and presentation.
And presentation is what makes this so entirely enjoyable: Richards has mimicked the style of Victorian adventure stories, using eloquent language to encompass the traditional elements of such a tale: fog-ridden streets, with snow carpeting the cobbled streets; Dickensian urchins play in the snow, fearing the inevitable return to the workhouse and trying to escape the ruffians bent on their demise; carriages rattling through the night to save the world. Amid all this, a sturdy troll strides, eager to do the bidding of his Mistress, the Great Detective herself, Madame Vastra.
The story gets an even better boost from the well-chosen reader, Dan Starkey, AKA Strax himself. Starkey gives a pitch-perfect performance, providing pacing and excitement throughout. His impressions of the various characters are wonderful, from Jenny's cockney, to the merest hint of a Scottish burr from Vastra. His Strax is, obviously, perfect.
If you enjoyed the Doctor's triumvirate of friends from the Christmas Special and want to fill the gap between now and when they return (they are apparently in at least one, if not two of the 2013 stories), then you must get this. I only hope this is the first of many. (Posted on 29 December 2012)
Would you recommend this product to a friend? Definitely yes