The premise of Hell’s Doctor is intriguing if not wholly original. Set in The City of Hell it details Victor, Hell’s Doctor. His role is a simple one – to torture new arrivals in hell, dubbed ‘pain babies’. Early into the story he is acquainted with David Masters – a forensic pathologist turned necrophilliac turned serial killer. If you’re thinking this reeks of cliché you’re right and there’s a lot of that contained within the pages of Hell’s Doctor – more on that later. Victor takes David under his wing as an intern and a few badly written torture scenes later they’re looking for ‘the Black Rose’ and a cocktail that should change the length of time that the portal of hell is open for and thus alter the very inner workings of The City of Hell beyond recognition. Simultaneously, former FBI detective and the almost likeable, but no less wooden, Mack Teacher, seldom assisted by Randi – daughter of Annicka one of the most powerful women in hell – search for the Black Rose. They are armed with no more than a shitty drawing, poem and the wrath of Randi’s Mother should they not find it!
The concept of The City of Hell could have been fleshed out fully with infinite possibilities and levels to create an impressive and authentic world. Unfortunately there is little more substance than this: hell comprises of five levels, the higher the level the more you will suffer, the lower the more indispensable and valued you are. All inhabitants of hell wish to make it to the second lowest level of hell, reserved only for council members. The bottom level is solely for ‘him’ (presumably Satan not the Ville Valo fronted Finnish rockers). Each room is presided over by a Room Mother, short for Room Mother Fucker (groan).
It’s difficult to know exactly where to start when critiquing Hell’s Doctor because of its invariably long list of pitfalls, frustrations and errors. For the first fifty pages Lee F. Jordan really smacks home the point that this is set in hell as if taking the reader for someone who is slow on the uptake and really needs this ‘crazy’ idea rammed home again and again and again. Ironically this is as near as Jordan gets to simulating the pain and torture that he fails to emulate through his long, drawn out, sleep inducing scenes of depravity. From the back of the book, readers are given the Hell’s Doctor Edict, “There are three kinds of pain: physical, such as cutting through the bone marrow of a prisoner’s leg with a dull hacksaw; emotional, such as torturing a prisoner’s family slowly; or psychological; destroys the hope of the mind.” Unfortunately Hell’s Doctor fails on every conceivable level. Far from grossing you out, the torture will send you to sleep and as for tapping into your psyche and blurring the boundaries between reality and nightmares – forget about it! So to reiterate the point in case you haven’t quite understood – a homage in part to Jordan – this doesn’t even fail at repulsing the reader. For well-written torture you’d be far better investing in the fabulous Senseless by Stona Fitch or The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum. If absolute fear and psychological damage is your bag then pick up Adam Nevill’s The Ritual.
The poor quality of writing goes way beyond the poorest of the poor in terms of proofing and grammatical errors – of which there are many – and crash-lands (catastrophically so) into the territory of implausible metaphors, shoddy speech and unbelievable characters. Unfortunately if you create characters that the reader won’t buy into then they’re lost before proceedings have begun. Case in point, this simile describing the flames of Hell, “it wasn’t a natural fire, but rather like would be experienced in a microwave.” Moments later on the notion of labelling Hell, “naming something like this was like a prom date with your mother. For no reason other than show” (it’s assumed the author meant naming a prom date to your mother, not going on a prom date with your mother). Jordan cannot help but deliver more cringe-worthy lines, on inflicting pain, “the feeling was better than an orgasm with ten hookers after a margarita shower” or on torturing the helpless, “like sex with a virgin on prom night. Oh, so sweet. Chocolate over strawberries and bloody panties all at once.”
It’s alarming that publisher Black Rose Writing state in their submission guidelines that authors must spellcheck, and yet we have a handful of ‘to’ instead of ‘too’ ‘one’ instead of ‘on’ and the unforgivable – and repeat offender – ‘insure’ instead of ‘ensure’.
For readers that are still – somehow – tempted to even pick Hell’s Doctor up from the library, it flirts with sexism and has a scene with British women more cringe-worthy than Family Guy’s take on the British accent. An example of Jordan’s attempt to gross out or make the reader laugh (one cannot be sure which) follows a pack of rabid women “on the first day of their periods and stuck in the City of Hell. Someone, probably a male someone, was going to pay for that.” In the same sequence a lack of plausibility is beautifully illustrated when three characters are described as “literally being eaten alive” only to all survive.
But don’t worry, all isn’t lost, Jordan throws in cameos from serial killers such as Ted Bundy so at least if you have an interest in the inner workings of serial killers you can enjoy Jordan’s carefully crafted authentic reimagining, or at least you could if he didn’t introduce then dispose of them as quickly as you can say “Chocolate over strawberries and bloody panties, what the hell Jordan?” A cynic would think they served no greater purpose than to name drop them on the back of the blurb…
This book is unreadable, boring, badly written and full of poorly thought out characters. Don’t buy it, don’t read it, don’t even touch it.