River (Alex Kingston) is back in The Diary of River Song, no Doctor, just action and solving mysterious cases in her latest series of exploits.
Colony of Strangers by James Goss
River finds herself a suspect as a body washes up on the shore of a Nordic colony. She would never let a small detail like that stop her investigating and finding what’s really going on, but can our hero get to the bottom of things before the Mayor (Wanda Opalinska) & local Police, Karl (Charles Armstrong) lock her up?
This is definitely a very different feel for a River Song story, diving into the Nordic Noir genre, a genre for which I confess I have little affection. I thusly found this one a little harder than usual to get into. James Goss’ ever charming writing style helps of course, as does Kingston’s ever endearing performance. The guest cast similarly is wonderful as is the twist ending. I think it’s something that definitely grew on me as we went along this tale, but it was a slow for my tastes, but it seems like it will be perfect for someone who is a fan of this particular style of story. If you’re not a fan of this particular sub-genre, keep with this, as it still packs a punch in the end and it’s well told.
Abbey of Heretics by Lizbeth Myles
‘Sister Melody’ arrives at a 12 century abbey in the midst of England at war, in search of a book. The abbey is busy dealing with rumours of the devil in the woods and death stalks all who dwell in their. As usual, River’s tendency to buck authority puts her at odds with the powers that be, this time those of the church – but she wants that book, and to put an end to the menace in the woods.
In this adventure we go into the Cadfael side of crime fighting. For those enunciated, Cadfael was a Monk solver of murders played by Derek Jacobi in the 90’s. You have to admire Writer Myles and Big Finish for not going to the obvious genres of crime story for this collection of stories.
It was a really interesting idea to start this story by looking at the job of illuminating books in the convent, the painstaking work of the nuns of the time. I also always love tales that focus on a less explored part of history, whilst also doing a classic, ‘what’s outside the house” story.
This is again maybe not my first choice of type of narrative, but the characters are well drawn and the menace keeps up the pace enough. I feel this will appeal to many River Song fans and history fans alike.
Barrister to the Stars by James Kettle
Roger Hogkiss (David Rintoul) is, as usual, defending another unfortunate on the wrong side of the law, when suddenly he finds himself in another space and time and being ask to apply his legal skills to a new case – that of the mysterious River Song, accused of murder. His day will only get stranger.
Now this is a genre I know well and love. I was instantly transported to watching ‘Rumpole of the Bailey’ as a child with my Dad, a feeling I know many will have gotten with the first two stories from their favourite watches. Although this character is different in his own way, you could definitely see him having a bottle of Chateau Fleet Street as his mulls over his latest case.
And what better lawyer for River than one who knows his clients are far from perfect but realises that they have the same right to a robust defence as anyone else?
Annette Badland joins the cast as the judge both on Earth and in space-bound proceedings and is the perfect foil to Hogkiss and River. Both Rintoul and Kingston have a lot of fun in this one Keeping Hogkiss on his feet, played delightfully as if he isn’t phased by all this is being put before him.
All in all, it’s a wonderful, faced paced and farcical script.
Carnival of Angels by Roy Gill
River’s alter ego Melody Melone has hung her shingle in New York, 1930’s. She and companion Luke (Timothy Blore) are called to investigate an impossible murder when a man sees his own death.
This is a wonderful prequel story to the Angels take Manhattan episode of Doctor Who. This tale goes back to the well for the straight detective noir genre that suits River so well in this guise. We are taken to Coney Island, in a nice contrast to the story this is set to precede, whilst still keeping that New York vibe.
I always thinks it’s something amazing to make Weeping Angels work in audio (they don’t talk) and this story does it again with a lot of style. Our setting for most of proceedings is a carnival, which makes the perfect location for an Angel to hide and stalk prey that will perhaps not be missed, and the location is used to great effect.
This is a really interesting and different set and one that had so many different and distinct styles of story, that if you find, like me, one isn’t your particular favourite flavour of genre, another will be. All stories are, however, well written to the point that you still want to listen to a story even not set in a world you might usually visit.