Brand of the Werewolf | Doc Savage #5
Kenneth Robeson | Bantam Books | 1975 | 138 pages
Taking a transcontinental train to his uncle’s remote Canadian cabin (for a brief respite from his adventures in fighting against evil), Doc Savage and his gang of super-scientist companions are the target of a strange, silent attack. An odd trio of other passengers—the “swarthy” Señor Oveja, his ravishingly beautiful daughter Cere, and the “girl-faced” El Rabanos—set a trap to frame Doc for a similar attack, and subsequently, for the murder of the train’s conductor.
Disappointingly, this entry in the action series does not settle into a parlour mystery set aboard a speeding train. Soon, Doc and his friends are off the train, following Oveja and company to uncle Alex’s cabin, where the senior Savage has recently died under mysterious circumstances. Overseeing the remote estate is Doc’s cousin Patricia, a beautiful young woman who shares the bronze hero’s statuesque build and metallic coloring.
Unfortunately, Patricia’s Native American household staff falls victim to the cheap stereotyping so common in the Doc Savage series. Patricia’s handyman, Boat-face, speaks almost exclusively with offensively bad retorts of “Him bad medicine” or “Him heap big coward.” Patricia actually punches him in the eye for being insolent, toppling him out of their canoe. Meanwhile, Boat-face’s “squaw”, Tiny, is a rotund woman who constantly chases him around with a raised rolling pin.
Patricia herself is also a sadly underdeveloped character. Sharing few of her cousin’s superhuman traits, she mostly seems to exist in order to provide a victim in need of the occasional rescuing. In one sequence, Doc incapacitates her with a specially applied nerve pinch, and bodily carries her to safety tucked under his arm.
The story is replete with the expected action sequences, as Doc eventually battles a criminal gang in a race toward an unlikely pirate treasure. Monk and Ham trade quips, and compete to win over the attention of Patricia (whose notable physical resemblance to Doc may posit an unintentional question surrounding the true object of their attraction). Doc’s other team members produce an unexpected amount of gear from luggage intended to support a fishing trip, while all paths finally converge on a shipwreck in an underground cavern.
The resolution relies too much on a multitude of actions performed by a key character, but the circumstances of his death ultimately defy the very logic of those actions.
…and most unforgivable of all, Doc never wrestles a werewolf, as promised on the cover.