⭐ ⭐ ⭐ / ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
“As Mrs. Boothy stared into the pulsing yellows and reds, she could feel the space under her hair begin to cool as if her brain had just turned on the air conditioning…”
Seemingly kind old Doctor Salt, the villain in the latest novel from Hans Coopersmith, keeps a silk hanky and a flask of chloroform in the inside pocket of his neatly brushed tweed jacket. His omnipresent bowtie contains a tiny camera and microphone so his devilish deeds are always being recorded for later perusal. The framed accreditations on the walls of his small town office include a certificate of endorsement from one Penumbra University. His favorite treat is blood orange curd on garlic ice cream, a dish he concocted during an “out of body experience” after drinking copy machine toner.
He’s also a world class unicyclist.
In Coopersmith’s capable hands, this diminutive, septuagenarial sadist becomes a modern Svengali who puppeteers his designated playthings through more and more despicable acts in order to test the hold he places over them with the aid of his invention. Dubbed “The Helper,” the handmade device is worn over the eyes to act as a therapeutic aid by displaying calming colors but what it really does is induce a sort of epileptic vertigo, leaving the affected hypnotized and decidedly ticklish.
The well mannered doctor likes to accompany his patients as they carry out increasingly morbid and dangerous instructions, which both allows him to film the resulting violence through the above mentioned bowtie camera and to also observe the patient and note their responses. He’s also there to whisper his condemnations, as each of his “drones” target those who have wronged or offended him in some way, though it’s anybody’s guess what poor Mr. Gorpsh could have possibly done to warrant such cruel treatment (the elderly gentleman is forced to watch a five-hour documentary on turnip gardening with only half a can of warm apple juice for sustenance).
Of all Salt’s victims, it’s young Roscoe that becomes the reader’s stand in, asking questions we’ve had from the beginning, like where is the exact location of the doctor’s lair, what kind of water pressure does he get on the sixth floor and is parking included in the rent? But lonely old Mrs. Boothy , being treated for bursitis, is Salt’s favorite however, and this distinction spares her from the more gruesome tasks, leaving her more of a housekeeper and companion of sorts. The two make an intriguing pair and one heckuva bridge team; she is eventually freed from the doctor’s mental bond only to be accidentally killed by another patient.
Yes, the bad doctor has many unhealthy urges and strange, painful acts he needs to witness before he can retire. At first the deeds are simple tests to see if “The Helper” really works, as initially the machine was only tested on domesticated pets and “that guy who’s always hanging around the parkside entrance.” Patients are made to pick their nose, try on stranger’s socks, fart on a cat or pretend to speak French. Then, as the true scale of the litany of disdain Salt has for his community becomes clearer, victims are hypnotically commanded to commit robbery, to vandalize a competitor’s Hibachi, and in one harrowing passage, beat a man to death with his own car. Present at all of these transgressions of course is our evil Dr. Mindkill, cackling gleefully louder with each act, balancing on his unicycle and slurping his curd.
Things go from bad to worse for the poor manipulated patients as side effects begin to manifest- apparently the doctor never inquired as to the health of his subjects once “treated” as one patient, overcome with nightmarish visions of his actions while under Salt’s spell (ie making out with several clown college dropouts in full costume) takes his own life in the good doctor’s lobby just as the afternoon rush is starting.
In one of the book’s more humorous moments, an early test subject is told to go to sleep only to remain so indefinitely as Salt cannot reach him in his slumber to instruct him to awaken! The resulting scene borders on the absurd as the man is struck with increasingly heartier objects, doused in all manner of liquids and even fellated to no avail before finally being put on a bus to Des Moines.
When authorities find a common link between the crimes, the hunt is on for the doctor and the novel switches gears somewhat as a game of dog and cheese ensues, leading us around the globe, following the trail of corpses to its riveting climax onboard the Turkish steamer Martha.
The author manipulates his audience just as easily albeit not quite as selfishly as the bad doctor, but any sort of mind control is unnecessary- we are fully willing to keep turning those pages.
Doctor Mindkill is an adventurous read for anyone with the ability to comprehend printed passages made up of words and sentences.