Pharmaceutical Journal review of A Taste of His Own Medicine

Protagonist exacts revenge in this fascinating pharmacy fiction title

The Pharmaceutical Journal8 FEB 2017By Andrew Haynes

A surprisingly good read featuring a pharmacist with an axe to grind against fellow students from her undergraduate days.

A taste of his own medicine, by Linda Fawke. Pp 264 Price £7.99. Charleston: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 2016. ISBN 978 1 539695097

This is a debut novel by a retired industrial pharmacist. When asked to critique it, I was not expecting much, since I have, in the past, been generally underwhelmed by pharmacist fiction. But this time I was pleasantly surprised.

The novel’s central character, Kate, is a successful community pharmacist who has built up a small chain of pharmacies. Although now in her early 50s, she still harbours grievances from her time as an undergraduate. When invited to a 30-year reunion weekend, she decides to go along and wreak vengeance on those who had slighted her when they were students together.

The action cuts smoothly back and forth between events at the reunion and the incidents that bruised Kate as a student. Her complex personality gradually unfolds — and darkens — as the narrative progresses. Her vindictive schemes do not go entirely to plan, and the book has an unexpected ending that sets the scene for a planned sequel.

The blurb on the cover describes the novel as “darkly humorous”. It certainly has its dark moments, but I did not find much humour in it. Nevertheless, it was an enjoyable read that held my attention to the end.

Unlike other pharmacist novels I have reviewed, this book has clearly gone through a proper proofreading process. Unless you are the sort of pedant who insists on “focused” rather than “focussed”, the novel is pretty much free from spelling and typographical errors, at least until the last few pages.

By the way, Fawke does not name Kate’s alma mater, but the description of the pharmacy department past and present reminded me of the University of Nottingham. An online check showed that the author is herself a Nottingham graduate, so presumably some of the plot — although I hope not the grimmer parts — is based on her own experience.

References:

A taste of his own medicine, by Linda Fawke. Pp 264 Price £7.99. Charleston: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 2016. ISBN 978 1 539695097

 

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Another review from Rosie Amber’s Review Team

A Review by E.L.Lindley:

 

A Taste of his own Medicine by Linda Fawke is a romance with a decidedly dark twist. The plot sees us crisscross from the 1970s to the present day and Fawke does a good job of drawing us in with her intriguing tale of revenge.

 

This is a novel with a lot to recommend, in particular Fawke’s attention to detail and the way she creates a vivid picture of university life in the early 70s. The main character Kate Shaw is a pharmacist and former member of the “class of 75” and Fawke cleverly constructs her story around Kate’s experience at university and the 30 year anniversary reunion of her class. Fawke effectively highlights how universities were changing and becoming more inclusive and accessible to people from lower socio-economic classes and all of the tensions that came with that.

 

Fawke also uses her eye for detail to create characters that we all recognise such as the tight-fisted scrounger, lecherous womaniser and pompous, self-aggrandizing oaf. My main stumbling block with the novel, however, is that the negative characters are relentless and there are no positive characters to offset them.

 

There’s no doubting that Fawke is a talented writer and she writes assuredly with total control over her story which is told almost exclusively in 3rd person narrative. There are a couple of paragraphs where Fawke switches to 1st person and although I understand her reasoning for this, for me it jarred with the rest of the story.

 

Kate Nash who drives the story is a 50 something successful workaholic with a string of pharmacies and enough money to afford an affluent lifestyle. This is in contrast to her humble beginnings when she was the first member of her family to go to university and her unworldliness is reflected in the fact that she’s shocked when she sees a gay couple and isn’t used to eating out or big city life. The diversity of university is a shock to Kate but instead of immersing herself into it she focuses totally on work. Essentially Kate is not a likeable character, dismissing other students as “a waste of space” and anything less than a First as failure.

 

We warm to Kate slightly when she begins a student romance with her polar opposite, the unreliable, easy going, part-time male model, Jonathan Carson. However, when the romance invariably doesn’t last, Kate seems to become totally unhinged. To such an extent that 30 years later, despite having been married for over 20 years, she is still harbouring a toxic grudge which goes on to encompass everyone else she feels did her wrong at university.

 

As I mentioned earlier, the main problem I had with the novel was the overwhelming set of unpleasantly selfish characters. There is no moral compass to give the self-destructive revenge plot any context. There are a couple of characters who initially seem to be positive and honest but by the end even they become embroiled in selfish, disloyal behaviour.

 

What for me might have made the characters easier to relate to would have been the use of 1st person and maybe multiple viewpoints. This might have helped give some humanity to the characters, particularly Kate, who I think the reader really needs to connect with in some way.

 

My favourite parts of the novel are the sections at the reunion which reflect all the humour and farce that tend to go hand in hand with these kinds of functions. There are lots of comic moments in Fawke’s description of the goings on and this did serve to detract from the unpleasantness of Kate’s behaviour.

 

All in all, I think if you like a dark romance and enjoy stories of revenge, scheming and intrigue then you will get a lot out of A Taste of his own Medicine. I suspect that I just didn’t connect with it in the way that other readers might. And, as always with reviews, it’s merely a personal response and I look forward to reading what other readers make of this well written tale of settling scores.