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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 6 May 2013
This story is a taste of what a Doctor Who spin-off would be like if it concentrated around the characters Jenny, Strax and Madame Vastra. The television series has solidly established these characters so the basis of having a story solely concerning them isn't much of a stretch. Justin Richards does a fine job of capturing their on-screen personas, especially that of Strax. You can almost hear Dan Starkey delivering the lines (no doubt that is why he was chosen to do the audio). This does mean, however, that Madame Vastra and Jenny are a little overshadowed at times.

It's a fair story, hinting quite cleverly but deceptively at events surrounding the recent Christmas special. This is not an actual prequel to those events though but a story in its own right. Some of it is a little bit immature for adult readers and it feels that this is a story orientated more at a younger audience. The other main protagonist is a young boy with a slightly Dickensian skew. His character is a little two dimensional but it is probably apt for this particular type of short story. There isn't much substance to the actual plot but there doesn't really need to be. The Paternoster gang are strong enough characters, especially Strax, to carry the narrative. Aside from the dialogue the writing is also quite basic and lacking in depth. Even so, the chapter title descriptions are a wonderful touch that somehow echo the style of stories published episodically in Victorian newspapers.

The antagonist(s) are an interesting idea but, metaphorically as well as physically, they lack substance and the text really reveals very little about what exactly it is.

For a Doctor Who based story that doesn't actually feature the Doctor this does in fact work quite well. It is another example (just like the recent episode `The Crimson Horror') that shows the potential for these characters to carry off a TV spin off on their own.
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on 10 March 2013
Ever since Madame Vastra, the Victorian Silurian Adventuress and her side-kick maid Jenny Flint burst onto our TV screens in the Doctor Who adventure 'A Good Man Goes to War' there has been a demand for the further adventures of this fantastic character.

There have been TV 'teasers', 'Minisodes' and of course the excellent 2012 Christmas special... but 'The Devil in the Smoke' gives fans their first real look at Vastra and her 'Paternoster Gang' fighting crime, aliens, evil and all manner of bizarre events in the London of the late 19th Century...

The story intself is very sound with many interesting concepts and ideas. The aliens themselves are fascinating creatures that could be explored further in any Doctor Who medium, the plotline is simple, but the characterisation that Justin Richards pours into the main protagonists makes up for any lack of depth.

This is really a novella and not a full blown novel so something has to be sacraficed, but it dosen't detract from any enjoyment of the tale...

Dan Starkey who plays the Sontaran Strax in the TV stories, gives listerners a lively rendition of the adventure, doing pasable impressions of Vastra and Jenny as well as the minor characters... but of course he excells at being 'Strax' who has some of the best lines in the whole thing!

Issued as a prequel to the Doctor Who Christmas 2012 episode 'The Snowmen', 'The Devil in the Smoke' works extremely well, although I had the feeling that perhaps it is intended mainly for younger fans as the full relationship between Jenny and Vastra is never mentioned, Vastra's taste for blood and raw flesh is also left out and any violence is kept to a minimum. However there is a great little scene describing Strax washing up... But as a self confessted 'Vastra' fan I was impressed and really enjoyed listening to this CD adventure. If you like Vastra and the Paternoster Gang then this is for you... I hope to see the Gang return in whatever medium soon... a TV special would be nice... although in the teaser 'Vastra Investigates' the Gang had just cleared up a case that involved identical twins, a poison unknown to science and an ancient Egyptian curse... a full length 'adult' novel combining all those ingediants would be a real cracker!

I hope to see more of madame Vastra and her Paternoster Gang and 'The Devil in the Smoke' is a good start...
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on 6 January 2013
The Angels Kiss (Justin's previous short e-book) oozed atmosphere which helped sustain the short page count - for me "Devil in the Smoke" just lacked in this department. The constant use of Dickensian vocabulary feels forced, as if Richards just trawled through a thesaurus until he found a suitably Victorian word.

From the Beeb's decision to use Justin for these short stories it's clear either:
A) He's cheap. *Joke*
B) He can write in various genres & styles.

Unlike The Angels Kiss, (a 30's first person noire) Devil in the Smoke (a Dickensian Christmas romp) just doesn't quite work. There is no real presence to the antagonist; banter between the Paternoster gang often feels stifled with many jokes and one-liners falling flat.

This really feels as if it was a rushed piece and given the nature of these cheap tie in e-books I think this is probably the case. Every character other than the Paternoster gang are heinously one note, the vacuous villain "Abe Hecklington" is only memorable by his cliché name and the two children who are supposed to carry the narrative are so plain I honestly can't remember their names a day after reading.

This e-book (other than containing the Paternoster gang) has no connection to the Christmas Special, characters, action, jokes, structure - near enough every element feels half baked - given a later release I'm sure this concept could make an interesting Doctor Who novel but compressed into under an hours read does no justice to Devil in the Smoke.

If you want a short Doctor Who read get The Angels Kiss, unless you're trouser-wettingly desperate for this e-book don't bother.
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on 13 April 2014
I picked up this book to read following a viewing of the doctor who Christmas special a couple of years ago. Whilst the doctor is not feathered in this book, his companions Vastra, Jenny and the amazing Straxx are and they set out on a case of who done it!! It's a simple fun adventure and not to be taken seriously at all! Enjoy it if you can :)
One person found this helpful
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on 6 January 2013
An absolute delight. I never felt the love for Torchwood as a Doctor Who fan of forty plus years but loyally I stuck with it on TV and with the written word but I have to say these characters are a real fun set with Justin weaving great mirth and menace. I don't know what will become of the characters on TV but I would ask for more Madam Vastra set of adventures, and while we are at it more River Song
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on 14 January 2013
This was a fun read - good story, lots of running about and fighting and adventure, some terrific jokes and lovely characterisation of the whole Paternoster Gang as well as the original characters. I'd love to read more in the same vein.

My only two problems - I know this was meant to a a short but a full-length novel would have been even more fun. And it seemed like Vastra and Jenny barely spoke to one another, although they both had good banter with Strax - I'd have liked to see more interaction between them.
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on 5 August 2017
Bought on the recommendation of a friend. It's OK. Ithought it was expensive for an audiobook.
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on 29 April 2014
Very entertaining, spooky, and a gripping tale for the lizard woman, the troll and the parlour maid. Dan Starkey (who plays Strax in the TV show), was a very good reader, and Strax almost steals the show, very funny!
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on 23 January 2013
A short but entertaining romp which leads up nicely to last year's Christmas special. The characterization of our three unusual heroes is spot on, and the plot is pure Who. The Victorian atmosphere is well maintained, if a little forced at times, and the resolution feels a little flat, but overall this is a fun title that will delight fans of Vastra and co.
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on 17 September 2015
a nice romp, and very well read by Mr Starkey. Go on Strax-y!
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