Snake Oil: It All Comes Around

Written by Marcus Galloway
Review by G. J. Berger

Not much goes unnoticed in the 1878 Dakota Territories mining camp, especially not the arrival of that brightly-painted wagon of itinerant “snake oil” salesman Professor Henry Whiteoak. He wears fancy clothes, sometimes speaks in riddles, and claims to have invented an intricate box that will tell real gold from fake nuggets. His wagon carries all manner of healing liquids and potions, even one that removes facial wrinkles. The Professor is also handy with a gun, knife, and explosives.

On this visit to the camp, named Dugan’s Find, law men and bounty hunters are snooping around for the Professor. There’s a price on his head for murder, and rumors abound that stolen gold lies tucked somewhere in that wagon. Whiteoak had visited Dugan’s Find before this trip, had taken up with a local lady, and made a few friends on other escapades. Soon after his arrival, he and his friends must fight both crooked law men and bounty hunters. Then Whiteoak sets out to solve the vicious crime that brought the bounty on his head.

Galloway’s action scenes are intense but not overdone. The characters are engaging. The Professor’s wagon, filled with secret locks, trick levers, and hidden compartments, in a way becomes one more character. The interactions among outlaws ring true. Unfortunately, too often the dialogue reads as if written out instead of spoken (“When you speak in so many trite sayings”) and occasionally jumps into modern jargon (“I know people”; “Whatever.”). But overall this third book in a continuing series will satisfy Galloway’s fans.