In humanity's 10th millennium the Crystal Bucephalus is a technological marvel: a restaurant that transports its elite patrons back in time and space so as to allow them to dine in the most culinarily famous places in history. When the head of the galaxy's main criminal syndicate is assassinated while eating there, the Doctor, Tegan, and Turlough are wrenched from the past and accused as his murderers. As they are drawn into the investigation, they find themselves in the middle of a conspiracy involving the kidnapping of a religious leader, dueling temporal scientists, and the efforts of a megalomaniac to cheat death and take over the universe in one fell swoop.
I must confess that I approached this book with a degree of ambivalence, as the idea of reading a Doctor Who novel that was premised on a minor gimmick adapted from Douglas Adams wasn't appealing to me. Yet while the idea of time traveling diners is one that can seem excessively ridiculous, Craig Hinton uses it to build one of the most breathtakingly ambitious novels in the Virgin Missing Adventures series. Key to this is his integration of time travel into the plot, which instead of being employed simply to transport the Doctor and his companions to some exotic locale is used as the main driver of events. These unfold over the course of the book to reveal a story of impressive complexity, albeit one dependent on hiding key details until late in the book in order to maintain a sense of mystery. This is a minor complaint, though, when weighed against Hinton's success in providing a multilayered adventure that comes together in an exciting conclusion to rank as among the best Doctor Who novels that I have read so far.