Relative Dementias is a Past Doctor novel starring the 7th Doctor and Ace
Mark Michalowski has written a very good first book that's marred only by trying to pack too much into the story and some dodgy character motivations. All in all, though, it's a very interesting story.
The Seventh Doctor and Ace stop in 2012 to pick up the Doctor's mail. There are a couple of interesting pieces, though, and it sends them back in time to Scotland in 1982 to help an old friend. Unfortunately, that old friend is missing, and the search leads to Greystairs, an Alzheimer's clinic. There, some of the patients seem to be responding very well to treatments to restore their memories. However, some memories can be dangerous, not only to the patients, but to others.
In the course of the story, many questions are asked. Why is the Doctor being so secretive about his actions before they arrive in Scotland? What are the strange disappearances that have taken place locally? Who is stalking them as they explore the area? Just what is Michael's secret, and why won't he talk to Ace? What does he have against the Doctor?
The book comes complete with weird time-travel activities, a manipulative Seventh Doctor (which is his usual characterization, for those who don't follow the series) and Ace, who is a tough young woman, slightly out of her element, but determined to do the best she can in the situation. I've always found this team to be an interesting one, even more so in the books than in the TV series. Ace doesn't quite fit the typical "companion" role in the Doctor Who series: she's often more of a partner than most of them are. She doesn't scream, for instance. She's a "take-action" kind of girl. She's well-served in this book, taking on a large portion of the action. It's a good thing that Michalowski writes her so well.
The other characters aren't served quite as well, though. The minor characters are fairly forgettable, especially the patients at the clinic. I found it hard to tell them apart sometimes, and when the ultimate revelation about what's going on happens, I still couldn't tell the difference. Claire, the barmaid, is a little better, but she's also fairly one-note. There's an attraction between her and Michael, but it's only mentioned in passing and nothing is ever made of it.
In fact, that sort of thing is one of the problems with the book. Too much is mentioned and then never developed. There's a murder at Greystairs that the Doctor discovers, but it's never mentioned again. Sure, the murderer gets his/her comeuppance, but only because of what happens in the plot. It has nothing to do with bringing the murderer to justice. It just sort of hangs there and is never mentioned again.
Then there's a conflict between Ace and the Doctor that grows out of nowhere. The reason for it, though stated at the time the problem happens, has no preamble whatsoever and I was actually surprised that all of a sudden, these two characters are fighting. Why? Supposedly, the Doctor has broken a promise that we've never seen him make, so it comes completely out of left field.
The final thing I want to address about character is Michael, and his motivation. He goes through most of the book hiding his real reason for being in the area, and hiding why he's so antagonistic toward the Doctor. When he ultimately reveals it, I was left with a skeptical feeling. I just didn't believe it. I won't reveal what the problem is here, but I will say that I can see no way that events would happen as he says they did. It's just not logical. People don't act the way he describes them. To me, it brought his whole characterization to a crashing halt.
The story itself is fascinating, though. There are a lot of twists and turns, and the ending is a mad dash to the finish line with a wonderfully Doctorish solution to the problem. The only problem is that it's a little too packed. While the book plods a little bit in the middle, the end is so full that the reader doesn't have time to take a breath. There's revelation after revelation hitting the reader in the face. The author has said that he cut a huge amount from his manuscript to fit the required word count, and it shows. The time travel antics were interesting (I won't say who's involved in them, because the revelation of that is actually part of the fun of the book) and I didn't find them confusing at all.
This past Doctor adventure is definitely worth picking up, especially if you're a fan of the Seventh Doctor/Ace partnership. With the exception of the conflict at the end, they are characterized beautifully. It's also a good book to introduce a non-Who fan to. It's well-written, and most of all it's fun.