By DJ Forrest
Written by Trevor Baxendale
For BBC Books
Wishing Wells date back to a time before colour TVs, automobiles and electronic gadgets. They were a means of making wishes come true, with a toss of a coin, and with eyes tightly shut, but in most cases, they were a glorified hole in the ground where spring water could be found, and with a bucket attached, could get a good drink on a hot day, or for whatever other purpose. However, Baxendale doesn’t write about a good well with a good dose of water at the bottom, or where wishes may be granted.
Down in the depths of the deep chasm are the sounds of a cat, calling to its owner, raggedy old tramp Barnaby, and deeper still, lies the treasure from a highwayman. And again, as we know Baxendale’s work, there won’t be a random cat roaming the levels desperate to reach freedom, and the treasure won’t just be highwayman loot, will it, Trevor?
Down in the tunnels is something far more terrifying, something that has been waiting and growing, and impressing on the very person that holds a part of it, to return and return soon. The raw power of the thing can be felt in whom-so-ever possesses it.
On the surface however, the Well is as harmless as a cricket ground on a cold, wet afternoon. The well itself is in a state of disrepair, and it falls to stalwarts of the little village to save it. Stacy and Angela, who I can only picture as two characters from a cross between Miss Marple (of the Joan Hickson era) and To The Manor Born, with Tweed, Land Rovers and Hunter wellies.
Gaskin from the Manor, who Angela blames for the death of her husband many years previous, is angered by their interference and tries to put a stop to it. Unbeknownst to them, Gaskin has an interest beneath the Well, plus the discovery of the loot would patch up the weary state of his abode, and put coffers back in the kitty. Obviously not the kitty currently mewing for all its worth in the deep dark well.
There are some interesting key characters within this story. You have the three uni students who are in search of Gaskins treasure, Nigel, Ben and Trevor, following a map and plan of dig by Nigel, head of the group, who doesn’t like getting his hands dirty, you’ll find out why, when you read the novel. The two ladies who I have already spoken about. Stacy does remind me of Angela Thorne from To the Manor Born come to think of it. But the Angela with the Land Rover is far from Penelope Keith, but has the outspoken attitude of the character she plays – anyway, as you read the story, you’ll probably know who she reminds you of.
Gaskin is an idiot, as most of them are, in their big estates, born into money, squandered most of it on things of little relevance to the real world, or is it my own dislike for the gentry? Gaskin however is a key figure in the story, and not in the direction you’d like to believe. Towards the second half of the story you kind of understand a little of his behaviour, warm to him slightly because of it, but still regard him as an idiot for his lack of belief.
Oh, I’m almost forgetting, this is a Doctor Who story, with 10th and Martha riding the storm. Martha the gentle human and the Doctor, in like Flynn, again, but this time, he has his work cut out, and you often wonder if he will conquer the threat in the story. It certainly doesn’t look like it as you’re turning the pages – but rather than skim to the end of the book to find out if he does succeed, read the novel intently, because, what I’ve noticed in all the books I’ve read, from any range of genres, is that, unless you read Every. Single. Word, you’ll miss out on tiny nuggets of information. And as to prove this, upon reading the novel again, I found portions I’d missed, I’d forgotten, about Gaskin, the manor, the ladies, the danger and indeed the boys in the tunnel.
This is a cracking adventure, great bedtime reading, and one for keeps.