The dense style Bucher-Jones executes in The Death of Art gives the early portions of the novel an especially difficult pace, not helped by certain diversions in the plot which really don’t move things around. The novel opens with a “Chapter 0” that is essentially a prologue in everything but name, and that chapter could easily be cut without losing anything. Bucher-Jones’ book at its core is a mystery, but the actual mystery doesn’t have a real inciting incident until about 50 or 60 pages into the 276-page novel. Once the mystery actually begins the writing style becomes more suitable to what the story is trying to do, reflecting mystery stories of the 1800s such as Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and Edgar Allan Poe’s Murders in the Rue Morgue. The setting of the novel is Victorian Paris which becomes incredibly evocative for the mysterious goings on with the Brotherhood of Imminent Flesh and a bridge in the Psi Powers arc of the book. Bucher-Jones straddles two main villainous groups throughout the book, the Family and the Quoth. The Quoth (as in quoth the raven nevermore) are one of those very New Adventures races with almighty power and their own dimensional plane of existence. They are the weaker villains, being evocative in places of Ben Aaronovitch’s People from The Also People, done poorly. Had Bucher-Jones cut the scenes in Quoth space perhaps he could have used them in a more Lovecraftian, cosmic horror sense, being an indescribable race trying to break into the universe proper.
The Family on the other hand work well as a threat, with Montague acting as the man in charge. He is a toymaker who displays psychic powers, as many of the villains and supporting characters in this arc, and has become influenced by the Quoth. Bucher-Jones writes an unsettling villain here and the rest of the Family and members of the Brotherhood are excellent. The Shadow Directory is also an evocative aspect of the story though sadly not used to full effect here. The Doctor and Chris also feel in their element as they investigate the mysterious goings on in Paris, revealed to be several instances of murder and conspiracy as the story goes on. Roz sadly seems to fall into a more cliché portrayal here, with her plot of being kidnapped and shoved into the catacombs of Paris where she meets a blind man just feels out of place. Overall, The Death of Art while definitely better than I initially gave it credit for, shows potential for Simon Bucher-Jones as an author but is utterly skippable and wedged between two greats (Return of the Living Dad and Damaged Goods). 4/10.