Dr Potter’s Medicine Show. Book Review

Angry Robot, p/b, 416pp, £8.99
Reviewed by Elloise Hopkins

Another cough threatens to make a public liar of him as Alexander Potter delivers his patter – an over-emphasised, over-acted (by his assistant, not by himself, of course) and nonsense-riddled spiel to sell his cure-all elixir to the rain-washed, down-trodden masses. He stifles his cough as he long ago stifled his morals and presses on with the charade.

Two fingers gone, Pascal Levesque is held captive. Things like this should not happen to a man like him. A scientist. A gentleman. But for he, Paris, like many, he supposed, had been his ruin. Regrets will not help him now. Maybe his missing digits will. Unfortunately for Potter and Levesque, ex-civil war surgeon and gentleman scientist, someone else is running the show.

Josiah McDaniel, dentist turned drunkard, is mourning and hopelessly lost in his grief and desire for revenge. He is going to find the man who created the damned elixir in the first place, and if getting two outlaws on side is what he needs to do then so be it.

Dr Potter’s Medicine Show starts off immensely strong, truly evoking that travelling carnival, quack-peddler vibe, but the story simply does not go in the direction you think it is going to, instead taking a rather grisly, meandering tranche through the terrible deeds and histories of its key characters, eventually through to the final confrontation with the architect of it all, Dr. Hedwith.

The story is based on the alchemists’ search for immortality and presents the reader with a graphic account of the doctor’s experiments and their various, gruesome consequences. The characterisation is excellent, in that although the vast majority of characters are entirely un-likeable, they are portrayed in a discomfiting, realistic manner, providing a horribly believable representation of the evil that man can do.

In terms of the narrative we have a steady onward route to the final confrontation via some scenes set in the past which give context and explanation to the ‘present’ thread. This book won’t be for everyone, but for those seeking a dose of dark shock and awe it will be grippingly impressive.