Review first published 21/10/12
On some days, New York is one of the most beautiful places on Earth. This was one of the other days…
Melody Malone, owner and sole employee of the Angel Detective Agency, has an unexpected caller. It’s movie star Rock Railton, and he thinks someone is out to kill him. When he mentions the ‘kiss of the Angel’, she takes the case. Angels are Melody’s business…
At the press party for Railton’s latest movie, studio owner Max Kliener invites Melody to the film set of their next blockbuster. He’s obviously spotted her potential, and Melody is flattered when Kliener asks her to become a star. But the cost of fame, she’ll soon discover, is greater than anyone could possibly imagine.
Will Melody be able to escape Kliener’s dastardly plan – before the Angels take Manhattan?
Fans of Doctor Who will remember that a certain book featuring a fictional detective by the name of Melody Malone figured prominently in the latest transmitted episode “The Angels Take Manhattan”. Well, BBC Books along with Commissioning Editor Justin Richards have decided to launch a new range of e-books featuring characters from the wider “Whoniverse” with this novel written from the perspective from Melody Malone, better known as time-travelling archaeologist, bespoke psychopath and the Doctor’s wife herself, Professor River Song.
In this novel Richards, writing in the first person as Melody Malone, tells the tale of her being hired by movie actor Rock Railton to investigate into a threat to his life and leads Malone to investigate the glamorous world of the 1930s movie industry which handsome leading men and beautiful starlets.
Within 100 pages, the author has to manage a difficult balancing act of writing a pulp detective novel whilst combining the element of one of including a beloved character in the current version of Doctor Who. Richards does manage this to do this very well, considering the size of the novella.
The main aspect of this novel to get right is the “voice” of Melody Malone. Basically, could Alex Kingston’s performance as River be transferred to the page? The answer is undeniable “Yes”. Richards captures the character’s intellect, sense of fun and danger along with her flirtatious nature. This is helped through the use of shorthanding references and in jokes for Doctor Who fans in areas such River’s knowledge of the different time periods and technologies, both past and present to the time period in which this book is set, along with her propensity for using hallucinogenic lipstick, her love of fashion which emphasises her femininity and, of course, at one point her wish to be with a certain Doctor.
The rest of the characters are, unfortunately, not so well served due to the fact that the length of the novel not giving them any real depth as a trade off to emphasising the Malone character and plotting a fast paced novel. You get stock characters like the handsome leading studio actor, the beautiful leading lady, the schmoozing movie mogul and heavies or toughs that populated films in the 1930s.
The plot is very tight and straight forward to follow with fans of the television series being able to establish who or, more appropriately, what is behind the threat to Railton by joining up the clues that present themselves throughout the book, despite a great red herring at the book’s conclusion.
It’s an enjoyable novella to read whilst you’re waiting for the series to return for the Christmas episode and a story which serves as a fitting prequel to the events that play out in “The Angels Take Manhattan”. That said, it would be good to see Justin Richards, or another author from the book range, get the opportunity to write a full length novel featuring the Eleventh Doctor and River Song partnership at some point in the future.