The novel “The Twilight Streets” by Gary Russell was published for the first time in 2008.
People prefer to avoid the Tretarri district in Cardiff even if nobody understands exactly why. The houses are now old and shabby because nobody wants to live there even if there’s no crime, simply they all try to move as soon as possible and eventually the area fell into decline.
A new project aims to renovate the district and a company is running the task. It’s not just about building modern houses and ensuring adequate services to the population, there are also performances and parties in the streets to mark the new course. When Bilis Manger’s presence is discovered, Captain Jack Harkness and his team start investigating, a job made more complex by the fact that if Jack tries to get close to the area he feels too sick to enter.
“The Twilight Streets” 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 Twilight Streets” is set during the second season of the TV show “Torchwood” with the full team but has strong roots in the events of the first season finale and other events of the past of Torchwood. Bilis Manger was a recurring villain during the first season, where Captain Jack Harkness and his team members met him a number of times. In this novel, this character is connected to the Tretarri district in Cardiff, where people feel something strange and where Jack can’t get in because as soon as he get near it he starts feeling sick.
Another link to television events is to “Doctor Who” because an important character is Idris Hopper, who appeared only briefly as Margaret Blaine’s secretary in the first season episode “Boom Town”. His presence is linked to some twists and his complicated relationship with Jack Harkness.
Gary Russell describes other events connected to Tretarri and Bilis Manger such as one of his appearances in 1941, during World War II, when Captain Jack Harkness meets what looks like a normal child but is actually an alien who uses the alias A. Neil. Perhaps the author saw on the Internet some memes concerning astronaut Neil Armstrong in which it’s noted that Neil A. read backwards gives alien.
The story of Tretarri is very elaborate as in the course of the novel faux historical documents are included that go back in time until the 19th century and concern strange events in the district. This is a strong point because it gives depth to that part of the plot giving the perception of a phenomenon that has been going on for a long time.
The problem with “The Twilight Streets” is that these foundations are developed in a plot that becomes twisted, in my opinion too much for the length limits of this series of novels. There are many connections with the past and a possible alternative future is told that is in pure Torchwood style, which means with very dark and towards the end there’s a plot twist that changes the perspective of the television episodes with Bilis Manger and Abaddon. The plot also tries to give space to Captain Jack Harkness, to his team members and also to other characters such as Rhys Williams and Idris Hopper and to various relationships among them.
Gary Russell’s effort is appreciable but I think that to develop adequately everything that he put into “The Twilight Streets” the novel would have ended up being twice as long. In the end, my impression is of a work in which there are intriguing concepts, including those connected to the television episodes, and introspective moments connected to the protagonists but assembled in an ensemble that seemed to me quite uneven because of the length limits. For this reason, I recommend it especially to fans who read these novels for their protagonists.