Something in the Water by Trevor Baxendale

Something in the Water by Trevor Baxendale
Something in the Water by Trevor Baxendale

The novel “Something in the Water” by Trevor Baxendale was published for the first time in 2008.

Captain Jack Harkness’s team is looking for who or what has been able to brutally kill a Weevil but an old friend of Jack’s warns him through Gwen Cooper and Toshiko Sato that something big is happening. The investigation leads to what seem to folklore stories but those who work for Torchwood know that the strangest stories can hide obscure truths.

Dr. Bob Strong is treating a growing number of patients with flu-like symptoms but their origin isn’t clear. Meanwhile, his concerns go to Saskia Harden, a patient with a past of suicide attempts who troubles him and hides something strange.

“Something in the Water” is part of a series of novels connected to the TV show “Torchwood“, a “Doctor Who” spinoff. The size is the same as “Doctor Who” books starting from the Eleventh Doctor. In the first books the font was smaller while in the following one the font is the same size as in “Doctor Who” books.

The first 3 “Torchwood” novels were published shortly after the end of the TV show’s first season and it was decided that the plots would partially cover Captain Jack Harkness’s team members to have some greater depth about them. The following 3 novels were released when the TV show’s second season aired and it was decided that the plots would be slimmer, with a faster pace, assuming that readers already know the protagonists.

From the beginning, “Something in the Water” starts showing some plot similarities with an earlier novel of this series, “Slow Decay”. The discovery of the body of a Weevil with the Torchwood team wondering who or what can slaughter a Weevil is the first similarity but others will be revealed much further in the course of reading. This doesn’t mean that “Something in the Water” is a partial rewrite of “Slow Decay” but as a coincidence it’s curious.

Trevor Baxendale got inspired by a figure of English folklore tied to water known as Jenny Greenteeth to build a story with horror connotations. They contribute to some dark tones of the story in perfect “Torchwood” style but this isn’t the first time that in this series science fiction stories are developed based on fantasy / horror elements. In the end, it’s far from the darkest “Torchwood” story since it also contains a certain amount of humor.

“Something in the Water” begins with some seemingly unrelated mysteries that are being investigated by the Torchwood team because in addition to a brutally slaughtered Weevil there’s the discovery of a corpse that at the moment to begin the autopsy starts moving and talking. Part of the story begins as a separate subplot with a disease with flu-like symptoms that starts spreading and Saskia Harden, a patient of a GP surgery with a difficult past.

The horror elements of the novel include sometimes gorey parts with the Torchwood team trying to find out if there’s a truth behind Jenny Greenteeth’s legend and come across dead not so dead and other such events. On the other hand, compared to many other Torchwood stories, including previous novels, the sexual content is absent and the language is much more “clean”.

The result is a very plot-oriented focused novel that has a certain complexity but without digressions about events connected to some of the protagonists’s lives. This doesn’t mean that the Torchwood team members are used only to develop the plot. The readers are supposed to know them but the story is full of details about their personality and their roles in Torchwood. In essence, the readers can recognize the protagonists seen in the TV show.

The similarities between “Something in the Water” and “Slow Decay” didn’t bother me, also thanks to the positive elements of a novel that overall seemed to me really enjoyable. For these reasons I recommend it to Torchwood fans.

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