By Robert Pobi
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.
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.
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.
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: