Monthly Archives: November 2013

Mannheim Rex

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By Robert Pobi

pobi

http://www.robertpobi.com/

Plot

Gavin Whitaker Corlie, horror novelist, is a widower who can’t seem to get over his wife’s death. Contemplating suicide, he decides to move out of the crazy city. Buying a house in upstate New York on the shore of Lake Caldasac, he settles in to get his life together. Within a few days he encounters Finn Horn, a teenage fishing enthusiast who is slowly dying of cancer. All is not serene in the community lost in time. There have been strange disappearances on the lake and the local sheriff is not a big fan of rich city slickers. With more people missing and dying, danger lurking from local law enforcement, and winter approaching, Corlie and Finn make plans to capture the monster in the lake.

Sound familiar? How many monster in the lake stories have there been? Scores. However, I haven’t read one in awhile and I haven’t ever read one quite like Mannheim Rex. There is so much more here and this is no cheap horror novel. Sure you have the obligatory scenes of the monster killing people. But this goes deeper (no pun intended) than the teen slasher and even the Jaws rip offs.

Characters

Gavin Corlie: 39, widower, writes horror stories, long silver streaked hair, brown eyes, has a tattoo up his arm and to his back, has a house in England but lives in New York, has an incredible memory for factoids, parents dead, contemplates suicide

Finnegan ‘Finn’ Cornelius Horn: 13, loves to fish, cancer destroyed his spine and left him wheelchair bound, dad is dead, thin frame but with upper body strength, shaggy black hair

Xavier Pope: sheriff, takes Benzedrine, big man, hates outsiders, green eyes, married but unfaithful

Jennifer Laurel: 56, doctor, head of pediatrics, pretty, short black hair, brown deep set eyes, not quite 5’2”, used to work in the Boston Shriners burn hospital, runs five miles every morning, pale skin, divorced

Vivid characters very well described and presented. Memorable. Pobi has a way of making nearly everything in the book a character. The house. The lake. The town. The cat. These are not insignificant objects. They’re an intricate part of the story in some way. There is also a nice progression in the revealing of facts regarding Gavin and his wife. At the beginning you understand that the wife is dead, but every time Gavin remembers or the circumstances around the death come up, there’s something new that brings more understanding to the relationship they had. Similarly, Pope steps down the despicable scope each time he’s seen.

Dialogue

Most of the men in the book use profanity in some fashion, however, in each person’s case the use fits the character. Finn sounds more adult than he is at times, but that’s his nature and I don’t see anything amiss with this. Conversations stay on track. There aren’t any long dialogues or lectures. What’s here is meant to be here.

Writing

There is a lot of profanity. A few chapters are headed by quotations. The writing is very descriptive which makes for very clear mental images. I can see the house Gavin lives in. I can envision the lake and the surrounding woods. This is very strong, very clean writing in that it stays on point. There isn’t a tendency to wander or insert a bunch of flashbacks to fill space. Pobi keeps this to a minimum and when he does I think it’s placed correctly.

I thoroughly enjoyed Pobi’s last book Bloodman (and he mentions that book in this story) and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on Mannheim Rex. This is an author from whom other writers need to read to learn about the craft of writing. I’ve visited his website and see he has two more books yet to be published and I will wait, albeit impatiently, for them.

This is one of those books where the movie version, even if it stayed true, would lose quality because the words here are so wonderfully written. This one deserves the ranking of:

Black Belt

Black

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Immoral

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by Brian Freeman

freeman

http://www.bfreemanbooks.com/

Plot

Fourteen months have passed since the first Duluth teen disappeared. Now Rachel the second girl, has gone missing. Lieutenant Jonathan Stride and partner Maggie Bei are back on the case. This time, they have a plethora of suspects including an enamored teenage boy, his jealous girlfriend, and worst of all, Rachel’s mother and stepfather. Evidence points to murder but what really happened? Is Rachel alive or dead? Dealing with a new romance, Stride seeks to uncover the truth.

This is a more complicated plot than what I’ve given. There is so much history that would be unfair to reveal. The turbulent relationships never quite bubble away, but always seem to come back and haunt the characters. Freeman does a nice job of showing the emotional strife of several people. By doing this, he takes an average plot and makes it worth reading.

Characters

Jonathan Stride: 41, a little over six feet tall, Lieutenant in the Duluth Detective Bureau, smoker, dark brown eyes, weathered face, gray streaked black hair, drives a Ford Bronco, wears cowboy boots, wears the same clothes year after year, has a bullet scar on his right arm, lost his wife to cancer a year ago, dad was a seaman and died when Jon was 14

Jay ‘Bird’ Finch: black, bald, deep voice, host of a ‘shock’ television show in Minneapolis, 6’7”, former basketball player

Maggie Bei: senior sergeant in the Duluth Detective Bureau, 5′ tall, bowl cut black hair, pretty, almond shaped eyes, Chinese immigrant, attended U. of Minnesota, she and Stride are very close and share deep feelings but are not lovers

Kyle ‘K-2’ Kinnick: five foot tall, Deputy Chief and Stride’s boss, plays handball, cabbage leaf like ears, reedy voice, gray hair

Andrea Jantzik: short layered blonde hair, smoker, athletic build, chemistry eacher, blue eyes, pert face, divorced

Nancy Carver: part time counselor at the high school, tenured professor at U. of Minnesota, dislikes men, tiny but sturdily built, near 40, wears glasses, berry red hair, lesbian, brown eyes, has a Master’s and a Ph.D in Psychology

Archibald Gale: attorney, big man, booming voice, has a goatee, wears glasses

I think one of the interesting characters is the mother of the girl who disappeared at the beginning. She is Emily Stoner, on her second marriage and plagued by the horrible relationship with her daughter throughout the years since her first husband died. Rachel is presented as a spiteful, hateful child who blamed her mother for her dad’s death. Flashbacks upon incidents are shown in italics and it gives a different perspective than the normal fretting mother.

Otherwise, there are good distinctive characters and the story delves into the lives of the main ones but just enough that I wasn’t bored with so much information.

Dialogue

Distinctive voices. I liked Maggie’s sarcasm. You hear the cop and the attorney and the teens. No conversation goes to waste. At times when I thought the scene was unimportant, somebody would say something to bring it back to the main case.

Writing

Book separated by Parts. Some profanity but not an abundant amount. A couple of sex scenes. Solid writing. Freeman knows how to write a story. He keeps everybody and everything in line and doesn’t deviate too much from the main mystery. However, there is a lot of character development throughout. Given the chance, I definitely would buy more of this author’s work.

My ranking:

Brown Belt

Brown

December’s Thorn

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by Phillip DePoy

phillip

http://www.phillipdepoy.com/index.html

Plot

Trying to recover from a near death experience (which included being in a coma), Fever Devilin receives a strange visitor to his Blue Mountain, Georgia home: A woman claiming to be his wife and that he has a son. However, Fever has a habit of seeing things which don’t really exist. Assisted by his girlfriend, the town sheriff, and an enigmatic but likeable psychiatrist, Fever starts putting together the picture. All too soon, however, Fever’s life is in danger once more. He has to dig back into forgotten memories, dredge up the past, face some horrifying truths. But can he trust anybody? Even himself? Is the entire mystery one big con game?

I really can’t comment on the plot because this is not a plot-based book. The plot is secondary, although a really close secondary element. I enjoy the ‘trying to remember something from my past’ type stories because you never know where it will lead.

Characters

Fever Devilin: trained as a folkorist, recovering from a near death experience and coma, hallucinates at times, parents (now dead) were carnival performers, has a high IQ, morbid interest in ancient worlds, was a professor at a university, insomniac

Issie Raynerd: claims to be Fever’s wife, pretty, black hair

Skid Needle: Blue Mountain town sheriff

Lucinda Foxe; Fever’s fiance, rarely uses profanity, head nurse

Ceridwen Nelson: head of psychological studies at an institution, white hair, dark eyes, olive skin, soft features

This is a character driven book. These people are enigmatic, strange, quirky, humorous, and at times I just didn’t know if anybody, including the protagonist was real. Real in the sense that the whole thing is one big hallucination or dream. More about character below.

Dialogue

Good voices from everybody. A little hint of southern accent although I did tire of “you’uns”. Really? Does anybody really say that anymore? If so, fine. I just found it a little distracting.

Writing

First person form Fever’s POV. The entire book, including how the characters were presented and developed was one big surreal experience. I felt detached from the normal type atmospheres of most stories. This is not to say I didn’t enjoy it, I just was always trying to find a way into the light of normalcy. I kept wondering if it was a Dallas ‘dream’ sequence, or a bad drug trip. I didn’t trust anything to be ‘real’. Because of this, I was a little disappointed at the mystery’s solution. The climax was pretty typical and the wind down to the end was too long. I wanted a bit more of a shocker. I liked the mythology aspect and the very slight hint of the supernatural (there is nothing paranormal about this story, but I wondered at times). I think it wold behoove readers to check out previous Fever novels before this one. Not that this one won’t satisfy, but I think by reading previous stories, you’ll get a more complete picture of the man.

My ranking:

Blue Belt

Blue

Eyes Of Justice

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by L. Wiehl and April Henry

Henry wiehl

Home

Plot

The trio of Cassidy (crime reporter), Nicole (FBI agent), and Allison (federal prosecutor), have been friends for awhile, helping each other with their specialized abilities to put away the bad guys. When one of their group is killed, the others bend the rules and interfere with the investigation. Almost immediately, an abusive ex boyfriend is arrested but at the funeral a mentally disturbed man relates a different set of eye witness clues that puts the spotlight on someone else. Ophelia, a private investigator is hired to assist. The initial investigation is that the murder was random, but when another death occurs, the women wonder if the murders have turned personal, with themselves as specific targets.

I haven’t read the previous Triple Threat novels and I wish I had before reading this one. I like the plot. It’s simple, with some expected and enjoyed twists.

Characters

Cassidy Shaw: 34, crime reporter for a Portland television station, graduated from Catlin Gabel (an elite private school), former cheerleader,

Nicole Hedges: black, FBI agent, graduated from Catlin Gabel, used to work at the Denver FBI field office, has a daughter, drives a Crown Victoria, had breast surgery

Allison Pierce: federal prosecutor, graduated from Catlin Gabel, captained the debate team in school, married, dad died when she was sixteen, wears a cross necklace and is religious, lost a child in a miscarriage the previous year, has a sister who lives with her

Rick McEwan: Cassidy former abusive boyfriend, cop, has a sister, takes high blood pressure medicine

Leif Larson: 6’2, muscled, Nic’s boyfriend, FBI agent, red-gold hair

Ophelia Moyer; private investigator, 24, wealthy enough that she doesn’t charge for her investigations, specializes in helping women escape abusive spouses and boyfriends, was abused herself as a child, has a unique personality unlike most people (is sensitive to loud noises, straightens silverware before eating, has no pictures on her walls, a bit of a ‘germaphobe’, eats the same lunch every day, etc.), owns three cats, came from Oregon

Very defined characters although I think author expected me to have read the previous novels to get more of each of the main characters’ personalities. I wasn’t disappointed in not having descriptions right away. I like Ophelia and hope she stays around for more stories.

Dialogue

Pretty good voices especially from Ophelia and some of the supporting cast.

Writing

A fast read. This story is laid out very logically and linearly. Any subplots are minor and only help to round out the characters. I did notice clusters of repeated words like ‘was.’ There aren’t any lengthy flashbacks and the story moves along very nicely. No real graphic details. No profanity.

My ranking:

Blue Belt

Blue