I’ve never read Sarah Pinborough before, but I do know that she’s an up-and-coming horror writer who is currently being published by Gollancz. Indeed, the first few pages of Long Time Dead had me chuckling, as I saw that she’d named a couple of minor characters after members of the Gollancz team. So, hats off to BBC Books for getting another such accomplished author to write for their Doctor Who/Torchwood range.

Long Time Dead sees the very welcome return of Suzie Costello to the Torchwood world, and it’s not long before this revived bad girl is being very bad indeed… The last time we saw her, it looked as though Suzie had finally been killed off for good. However, despite having blown a sizeable hole through her own head, she’d already previously come back from the dead. Indeed, Torchwood creator Russell T Davies had apparently planned to resurrect  her occasionally, however this was scuppered when Indira Varma became pregnant prior to the filming of the second series. Now that she’s been seemingly regenerated in Long Time Dead, Suzie appears intent on adding as many people as she can to her previously deceased state…

However, following the destruction of the Hub at the end of Children of Earth, its wreckage is being extensively searched by the Department in their quest for any useful or dangerous alien technology that they can find. (In a nice tie-in with Miracle Day, one box of alien artefacts from the wreckage is labelled under the name of “Colasanto”, and there’s also a subtle reference to David Jones, Jo Grant’s beau from the classic Doctor Who adventure The Green Death amidst plenty of other Torchwood nostalgia). Once the bodies start piling up, the police inevitably get involved, allowing for a few nice cameos by a certain Andy Davidson. (In Long Time Dead, Andy suspects that his sudden promotion to sergeant may well have been down to the events he witnessed during Children of Earth, rather than due to his own inherent talent at police work.) As a sergeant though, Andy’s too junior to lead the police investigation, so this burden falls upon the troubled shoulders of DCI Tom Cutler.

The police are perplexed, as along with Suzie’s seemingly motiveless murderous spree, there are also a bout of suicides in Cardiff involving people that have no recent history of mental trauma. It turns out that something dark and truly fearful has escaped from the rift…

Like Bill Pulman’s character in Miracle Day, Oswald Danes, Suzie Costello starts out as a very unsympathetic character. However, such is Sarah Pinborough’s skill as a novelist, and her sublime characterisation and plotting, that you’ll be really rooting for Suzie at the end of Long Time Dead. Indeed, Long Time Dead is a lot better than many TV Torchwood adventures, so it would be great if Sarah Pinborough were ever given the opportunity to write for the small screen.

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