Verdigris is now officially off the hook. The award for the book to fall apart the most in the final 50 pages goes to...
Why, David, why? You were doing so WELL. I was really into this book. The era of history I knew absolutely nothing about, the rich characters, the kick-arse French mercenary who is blatantly an ancestor of Sir Richard Mace given the ease with which he hijacks the plot. The dark Doctor stuff actually done well, the unavoidable disaster... it's the best Aztecs rip-off I've read yet.
But... I'm going for a marathon push to end it and 255...
There is no other way to phrase this. Pure balls. Balls in their most undiluted form - text. The most testicular piece of writing ever.
We know that there is a spy and a murderer in the castle - most likely the same person. We know that the spy is Robert the Apothecrary because he is a) Way too nice to everyone and b) A CHARACTER SAW HIM FOR CHRIST'S SAKE IT ISN'T A MYSTERY! But at the same time some evidence suggests that the killer is female. This ties in with the fact that Giselle is stressed out in every scene since the murder and keeps saying stuff like "OMG the Doctor's going in the library hope he doesn't find anything incriminating."
So... the Doctor goes and reveals that Robert is the spy, why what a frigging shock, and then Robert just happens to walk into the room and go "Yeah, I'm the spy" causing de Carnac to kill him instantly thus meaning Robert's motivation will forever remain a mystery. The Doctor then reveals to the room, who really aren't listening to him, that he knew this was the case because the Castellan kept a book of the herbs that Robert said he would pick against the herbs that he actually picked and knew that the two didn't match up. (?)
Which implies that the Castellan had the carefully compiled evidence that Robert wasn't leaving the castle to pick herbs but didn't realise this meant he was the spy. (??)
And he didn't draw the conclusion until the night Girard was murdered where he co-incidentally saw Robert send a message to the Church. And his first action was apparently not to tell Hugues as his inner monologue suggested but rather to get his herbs spreadsheet from his room. (???)
Whereupon despite being a former soldier and heavily armed he was easily overpowered an inexperienced and apparently unarmed apothecrary leaving no signs of a struggle on his body which is hung from the ceiling. (????)
Unless he was killed by Jeneane but she had no reason to do so and how the hell could she do it anyway?
At that moment de Carnac gets shot by Jeneane. No, not the one that was acting shifty, of course, but the one who just had the inner monologue about giving back-alley abortions to fill out some pages in a mildly 'adult' way.
Jeneane is the murderer! She did it because she wanted to steal the skull! The skull that only got mentioned about three chapters ago and is meant to be a Cathare relic - but now we're told is THE SKULL OF JESUS CHRIST! Except it's the skull of a woman. But that doesn't matter because she was going to sell it to the Church who would pay her millions! Or just kill her and take it in a couple of days time, but she didn't think that far ahead. But the Doctor reveals that the skull was planted on the Cathare's by the Church in the first place, as it so clearly isn't Jesus' skull the religion would have to disband immediately. Presumably it went a little like this:
GIRARD: Not much. What you packing?
GUZMAN: Skull of Christ. 6 dollars, take it or leave it.
GIRARD: Hey, if Jesus left behind a skull that would mean the Resurrection couldn't have happened..
GUZMAN: HO-YAH! I-HADDEN-FORTA-DAAAAT!
GIRARD: Don't you look a little familiar?
GUZMAN: Er... maybe I'm a fisherman or something. Anyway, take it, the skull's free! Hellfire Sale, everything must go!
GIRARD: Awesome. Now to start the coolest religion ever...
This is the plan that will make Guzman the new Pope. That, and the fact that he has killed everyone else elligible for the position.
BALLS! BALLS! BALLS!
This is just the peak of Sanctuary's falling apart, unfortunately. McIntee also started killing off characters simply because he was bored with them a few pages earlier (often involving them behaving in improbably stupid ways), padding out the story with endless scenes of Benny trying to crack Avon-style one-liners in spite of the fact the book is already over-length, and upping the number of continuity references five-fold. Yes, it's McIntee so you EXPECT continuity, but what I'm saying is that it's gotten worse. And this is a book that began with a character who was a childhood friend of Guy Estram, The Doctor bragging about his trip to Jaffa, and Benny having nightmares about the Daleks.
Also there's like three different explanations for the 'locked door mystery'. THERE'S ONLY MEANT TO BE ONE!!!
Perhaps I should take this moment to look back at the books of David A. McIntee I have read:
First Frontier: Well, only read the first 50 pages but they were unutterably terrible.
Lords of the Storm: To create the ultimate Sontaran experience McIntee has them explain their plan half-a-dozen different ways and times before they get their arses kicked by Indians.
Mission Impractical: ….hmmm.
The Face of the Enemy: Jaw-droppingly wonderful masterpiece!!!!
It’s at this moment that I have to suspect that I just keep buying the wrong McIntee novels..
Shadows of Weng-Chiang had better be good. That did not come cheap of eBay...