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The cover of BLOOD AND FOG gave me too warnings as to how much I was likely to enjoy it. Firstly, it was written by Nancy Holder, probably my least favourite BUFFY novelist and, secondly, it apparently features Jack the Ripper.

Now, this isn't because I don't have an interest in the Whitechapel Murders, but because I do. However, this can be a drawback, as it brings with it higher expectations and a hope that the writer gets their facts "right".

Of course, this doesn't mean that the story has to be historically accurate, especially if the Ripper is only a part of the mix (e.g. as in Hammer's DR JEKYLL AND SISTER HYDE), but nevertheless I did approach the novel with a fair amount of trepidation.

Holder has always come across as a bit of a Willow fan, so it no surprise that she gets to play a major part in proceedings, right from the off. However, once the Prologue is out of the way, we're right in the heart of Whitechapel in 1888.

The hope that Holder got her Ripper facts right quickly evaporated on page 31 when we're told that it's 8th December, and that Mary Kelly was murdered "last night". (The fact that Kelly was murdered indoors is also ignored.)

This is just the sort of sloppiness that I'd feared - Kelly was the Ripper's final victim, but the murder took place on the night of the 8/9 November). Since Holder went to the trouble of getting the name right, why not get the date right as well?

Of course, this being a Ripper story written in the 21st century, we get the cliche of London being cloaked in fog. Again, this is historically inaccurate (October 1888 was foggy, but the murders took place on cloudy or overcast nights), but fog does play a major part in the story, so at least it's not simply a case of Holder tapping into a Hollywood cliche.

The 1888 sequences introduce us to Elizabeth, the Slayer of the time, who is treated as little more than a slave by her Watcher. This relationship is different from the usual Watcher/Slayer one, and its a shame that the novel didn't concentrate on her rather than having to include Buffy and the rest of the Scooby Gang.

But included they are, although Anya, Tara and Xander are absent for a huge chunk of the novel, particularly Anya and Xander. This puts most of the emphasis on the pairings of Willow and Dawn and Buffy and Spike (it's set well into season 6). Spike gets a few lines that liven things up a little, but some of the continuity references seemed a bit laboured. As for that Holder favourite of "Boca del Infierno", we have to wait until page 47, which must be some sort of record for her.

Apart from several factual inaccuracies in the Ripper elements of the story, the main problem with BLOOD AND FOG is that the main threats aren't interesting, with Jack himself being a major disappointment as far as I'm concerned. Too much time is wasted on faffing around in the fog, fights and various Faery-style bollocks which I found pretty tedious.

Despite being in the UK, Giles also features, as does girlfriend Olivia and the Watchers' Council. Like her sometime co-author Christopher Golden, Holder uses the idea that the descendent of a Watcher seeks to right an apparent wrong, although this sub-plot could perhaps have been better done. On a minor note, if Giles is in Bath, then surely he'd travel up to London, rather than down?

Jack the Ripper provided plenty of potential for a cracking novel, either directly involving Buffy or just the 1888 Slayer, but to be honest, Holder botches it here (although to be fair, Pocket Books might have insisted on it featuring Buffy rather than concentrating on Elizabeth instead). If that criticism of the publishers can be put down to personal preference, one thing's for sure: they need to employ some better proof-readers (or perhaps some proof-readers would be a start) as there's an annoying amount of typos scattered throughout the book. BACK TO THE TOP





RATING: 4/10