'The magician had a problem. There was a fish-hook in his heart.' The opening words from the latest Eighth Doctor Adventure, The City Of The Dead by debuting author Lloyd Rose, set the tone of the novel immediately and there is a real sense that something great is happening with this novel. After grave disappointment with last months entry into the series Rose's novel is without doubt an unqualified success.
Arriving in New Orleans, the Doctor, with his companions Fitz and Anji, is immediately thrust into a murder investigation of a dealer in morbid artefacts, where a unique charm carved from human bone has been stolen too. To say anymore about the plot, would spoil what is a superb novel.
The quality of Lloyd Rose's writing shines through immediately as she brings a different tone and style to the EDA's which works perfectly. There is a freshness about her writing which brings the text to life in a very vivid way. Her depiction of New Orleans is very striking too, and by bringing her setting alive in this way, she conveys the city's vivaciousness wonderfully well, mixing the fascination with the occult and the sense of the decay in equal proportions.
Lloyd Rose characterises the Doctor well here, with the character haunted by memories of things that he can't remember, and it is this haunting which makes the novel so memorable in part. Ever since The Ancestor Cell the Doctor has suffered from memory loss due to the certain acts he committed within that novel, and this has continued through the books published during the last year. And although it looks like he won't recover them anytime soon, Rose really manages to convey well the Doctor's fear of who he is and who he was. One of the most memorable scenes amongst many is the conclusion to chapter eight, which must rank as one of the best chapter endings in any Doctor Who book.
Rose handles the Doctor's companions well here, with both of them being important to the plot as a whole. Particularly impressive is her handling of Anji who comes across very well throughout this novel, with the strong characterisation she's been given in the majority of her previous appearances being built on here, especially in relation to the subplot involving her and a local police detective which shows she might just be starting to put Dave's death behind her. Fitz is once more undeniably Fitz, and he continues to prove himself one of the most interesting male companions that have featured in Doctor Who.
Lloyd Rose's own characters are a strange set of individuals but they are well written and their presence makes them and the book as a whole more interesting. Whether it's Detective Jonas Rust, Teddy Acree, Jack Dupre or Laura Ridgepath they are all characterised well and come across as three dimensional characters in their own right.
In a novel steeped in the unusual and supernatural, there are always going to be dark scenes and Rose handles these well ensuring that the trauma suffered isn't gratuitous, but believable and convincingly done. To balance the more horrific aspects of the novel, Rose demonstrates a nice line in dry humour which remains in the background through much of the novel. But make no mistake this is a dark novel, which builds throughout to it's shattering conclusion.
If I have any complaints about The City Of The Dead, it would be that because it has a fairly small cast of characters, there aren't many candidates who could be the books main villain, but despite this predictability Rose still has a few surprises left with the plot afterwards.
The City Of The Dead is a stunning novel. Powerfully written, sharply characterised it has a huge amount going for it and comes across as a highly entertaining novel. On the basis of this novel, Lloyd Rose is a very talented writer, and it seems that this opinion is also held by those within the upper echelons of the BBC's Doctor Who section, as she's already been commissioned to write another EDA for next year 'Camera Obscura' and I for one, can't wait to read the next book from this stunning new author.