January 2011 saw the release of the second Jago & Litefoot boxset which follows on immediately from the first boxset. How would our authoritative authors look after our favourite Victorian investigators of infernal incidents? When will I stop alliterating in the foolish folly that I can capture the magnificent mood of these terrific tales? Find out below (lots of spoilers)…
Litefoot and Sanders by Justin Richards: although this overlaps with the end of Series 1 I felt it was slightly disjointed. I liked the idea of Litefoot having Gabriel Sanders as a new associate but the treatment of Jago seemed abrupt even with the explanations at the end. This did give Jago a chance to don a disguise and investigate on his own which I did enjoy. The whole Sanders the vampire idea (with his horrible insects) worked without being overdone and poor Ellie sadly died at the end leaving a tear in the corner of the eye. Good but not a favourite
The Necropolis Express by Mark Morris: a few days after the events of Litefoot and Sanders our heroes are riding the train that takes the caskets of paupers out of London for burial; this train is the Necropolis Express (more info here for those curious readers)!
Realising Ellie may be becoming a vampire if she isn’t buried in consecrated ground this becomes a race against time though they did not back upon a mysterious church, lightning machines, an underground laboratory and the devilish experiments of Sabilius Crowe wonderfully played by Vernon Dobcheft. Crowe knew Litefoot from before and is appalled that he is engaged in experiments to reanimate the dead and build an army for the Empire. And all sponsored by Gabriel Sanders! Ellie returns as a vampire to help defeat Crowe and is installed back at the Red Lion where she can work at night. Sadly she is then visited by a disfigured Sanders who survived being burned at the end of Litefoot and Sanders.
I felt this tried to do too much and came across as clunky. Maybe this could have been two stories not one. At least Ellie is back (sort of)
The Theatre of Dreams by Jonathan Morris: this starts off with our heroes on the Thames exploring the Frost Fair, the reason being Jago has the running of a theatre. Jago is occupied with trying to help Ellie manage her condition (via the medium of black pudding) and the fortuitous finding of Madame Dueteronomy’s Theatre de Fantasie gives Jago his first star turn – a theater that shows you you fantasies come true. In a reversal of Litefoot and Sanders Jago becomes too busy being a success for his friendship with Litefoot who after a month gets drawn into the case of bodies found of people who appear to have rapidly decomposed or been dried out in death.
Of course Deuteronomy is to blame and by the mid-point all is resolved and our heroes settled down and enjoy rapid success until they realise this is all a fantasy brought on by the theatre. Breaking free of this they then, somewhat predictably, settled down to a life of misery where Ellie roams the streets with her vampire minions feasting on zombie somnambulists. Of course this is another fantasy and our heroes do indeed escape via the fourth wall.
On a positive note Jago inherits the theatre and Jago’s fantasy cure for Ellie actually seems plausible.
I found this rather too obvious and despite wonderful acting and the return of Dr Sacker from The Bellova Devil felt that this was marking time. The appearance of Sanders at the end seemed random and drew no response it being the end of the story. Let’s see how it all resolves…
The Ruthven Inheritance by Andy Lane: this starts with Jago facing ruin (again) as a spate of murders is driving his audience away; Litefoot too is in trouble as he is scandalously living with a bar-maid and loses his job as a pathologist and with the hospital. He is unable to tell the truth (i.e. that he is looking after a vampire) and now faces serious problems.
Fortuitously a salvation appears – Jago sells the theatre for 500 guineas and Litefoot is offered the same amount to explore tunnels of bones under Lord Ruthven’s family home. He leave Jago looking after Ellie as he takes Dr Sacker to explore the tunnels. He finds an underground river and also bones pointing to human adaptation into a killing machine of super-human prowess.
Jago re-reads his contract and realises he has sold the business but not its debts and so is penniless; he then finds Ellie has escaped and follows her.
Litefoot is attacked by one of the super-human hunters in the tunnels; Sacker dies but Ellie arrives and saves the day. Litefoot then proceeds to dismantle a wall allowing the underground river to flow once more. Jago, meanwhile, arrives and is captured but luckily the collapsing house kills Ruthven leaving Sanders to reveal his true form and start to chase out heroes (Litefoot and Ellie having appeared). All ends well and with Sanders dead Ellie is cured of her condition.
At a tea party all is (largely) well that ends well and Litefoot’s reputation (and career are restored). All is well until, as happened at the end of series 1, fate intervenes in the form of Leela! Cue the end music…
I thought this story was the best of the four: it showed how real life can’t sustain such minor things as a job when you are busy with an adventuring lifestyle; I liked Ruthven and the way it all tidied up.
The series as a whole
A bit uneven for me; I enjoyed it all but felt the middle was muddled. Once more a linking theme through both Ellie and Sanders – the series is almost Jago & Litefoot & Ellie in some respects but none the worse for that.
My main quibble is I now need to get series 3 to find out what happens next!
Thanks for reading this far – what did you think of this series? How does it compare to series 1? Let me know!
Tony, January 2013