First published back in November of 2012, US author Robert Pobi’s second novel was entitled ‘Mannheim Rex’ and incorporated the writer’s passionate love of fishing within a pulpish ‘Creatures vs Mankind’ premise.

DLS Synopsis:
After international bestselling horror author Gavin Corlie’s wife, Chelsea, is rundown and killed by a drugged-up driver named Mole Roper, Gavin’s life spirals into an abyss of utter depression.  Needing to get away from it all, Corlie’s assistant, Shannon Leibowicz, arranges for Corlie to move to a secluded old mansion located on the edge of Lake Caldasac nearby to the quiet town of New Mannheim in North New York.

Still harbouring thoughts of suicide, Corlie ponders if there’s any reason why he should go on.  However, shortly after the move, Corlie spots a wheelchair-bound boy quietly fishing alone in an old fishing boat nearby to Corlie’s country home.  Shouting out a greeting to the boy, Corlie’s presence instantly scares the young lad off, leaving the writer alone once again.

The next day, Corlie has a visit from Sheriff Xavier Pope, who informs the depressed author that shortly after Corlie shouted out to thirteen-year-old Finnegan Horn (‘Finn’), the wheelchair-bound boy’s boat suffered massive damage, leaving it pretty much destroyed, with the young boy discovered floating in its remains, barely alive and suffering from a severe case of hypothermia.

To make matters worse, during the search for the missing boy, one of the locals who had been employed to search the sixty-one-square-miles of water, Tom Stockman, drowned in the waters, his body torn to shreds presumably by the Caldasac Dam.

Feeling guilty for any part he might have played in the tragic events that took place of the lake, Corlie decides to visit Finn in hospital as well as replacing all of the fishing equipment that were destroyed.  However, the young lad has much to tell Corlie about the events that led up to him floating around Lake Caldasac in the remains of his converted fishing boat.  Even after his near-death experience he still remembers what it is that destroyed his boat and almost killed him.  But it’s something that no one would believe.

Meanwhile, high-as-a-kite on Benzedrine and vodka, Sheriff Xavier Pope has taken an instant dislike to the recent arrival of the high-profile author in their quiet little community.  And Pope isn’t the sort of person just to let a grudge smoulder away.  The cockroaches in his head are buzzing for action.  And Corlie certainly wouldn’t be the first to fall victim to the psychotic police officer’s cruel vengeance.

But when local fisherman, Walter Pinkowski’s legs are found washed-up along Lake Caldasac, Corlie knows that there must be something out there responsible.  And with the help of Finn, the borderline alcoholic antique dealer Dave Duffy, and the moral support of Dr Jennifer Laurel; they plan to catch the giant fish that has somehow remained undetected in Lake Caldasac for so long.

A colossal beast that is lurking in the dark depths of Lake Caldasac.  A legendary fish with needle-sharp teeth capable of ripping apart a man in seconds.  And they won’t stop until they’ve finally caught and killed the beast…

DLS Review:
A giant fish capable of destroying boats and ripping apart anyone foolish enough to be in the water at the time!  Oh yes, it’s a classic pulp-horror premise.  However, unlike the old school blood-and-guts 80’s paperbacks, this more recent offering is a far more substantial and involved read.

It’s certainly no surprise that much of ‘Mannheim Rex’ bears much resemblance to the likes of ‘Jaws’ (1974), ‘Devour’ (1981), ‘The Pike’ (1982), ‘Pestilence’ (1983) and perhaps even the classic ‘Moby Dick’ (1851).  Okay, so the concept isn’t all that original.  However, what’s different about the novel is its delivery.  Reading more like a Stephen King novel than an all-out pulp-fest, ‘Mannheim Rex’ is a well-written and surprisingly involving read.  Indeed, two strong threads run simultaneously throughout the length of the tale – one involving the giant beast and their plans to kill it, and the other involving the psychotic Sheriff Xavier Pope and the continuation of his murderous activities.

The novel begins with a much more reserved and cautious pace than you might expect from a tale of this nature.  Author Robert Pobi spends much of the first half of the novel setting down the complex character of Gavin Corlie as well as the equally important character of Finnegan Horn.  As the two plots take on a gradual momentum, so the unsurprising love interest of fifty-six-year-old Dr Jennifer Laurel begins to emerge.  Throw in the personal vendetta of the comical Liverpudlian David Duffy, and you’ve already got yourself an intriguingly layered plot, always with plenty going on.

Indeed characterisation is a particularly strong element in the novel.  Instead of a more action-rich and progressive pace, Pobi has elected for a tale that spends time bringing in the characters, connecting their lives with the reader, and hopefully creating an altogether more fulfilling read.  And as such, the tale feels less like a pulp and more like a modern horror.

The ending is not quite as predictable as one might have thought it would be.  There’s no jump-out-of-your-seat surprises, but it nevertheless doesn’t quite run how you may think it would.  Indeed, after such a long build up, the two finales (of which there are distinctly two) are perhaps a little too pedestrian.  They both seem to be over before they’ve really begun, and have little to no impact on each other, which is a bit of a disappointment to end the book on.

However, the tale is still an enjoyable and entertaining read, with enough going on to keep the reader happily ploughing on until the end.

The novel runs for a total of 532 pages.

© DLS Reviews

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