In his debut novel, Robert Pobi has created a stunningly beautiful and mercilessly terrifying thriller.
FBI Special Agent Jake Cole has returned to tend to the affairs of his estranged father, the famous American painter, Jacob Coleridge. Coleridge, in what doctors believe to be an Alzheimer-induced state of delusion, set his hands on fire and went barreling out his plate glass window. Intent on simply getting his father into an assisted facility and getting back to his life in New York, his plans are waylaid when he receives a call from the local police chief.
Two bodies have been discovered in a rental home up the beach. When the police chief called the FBI they informed him that Jake Cole was actually in the area. Jake is a specialist in the area of murder; he has talents most don't understand and attribute to psychic abilities. But in reality he has an eidetic memory - a photographic memory - and the local police are going to need help on this homicide. The two victims found were skinned alive. As if that wasn't enough, the Hurricane Dylan is headed straight for them with the potential for destruction unlike anything they've seen before.
BLOODMAN may have readers leaving all the lights in the house on while they read, but the extra bump on the electric bill will be worth it. You aren't going to want to miss this one. While the crimes are horrific, the book is not a gory, graphic horror novel. Pobi writes like a seasoned veteran; he gives little in the way of graphic detail, instead leaving most of the abomination up to the imagination of the reader.
Pobi does give the reader incredible imagery in other elements of the story. Having chosen to write about a painter, he's able to put that imagery to use in fantastic ways throughout the novel. The opening sentence is a great example of his use of imagery. As is his character development:
"Instead of a Kevlar vest and a riot helmet, he protected himself with a carefully tailored personality shield positioned to prevent the soft parts of his psyche from being damaged. Before Jake walked into a murder scene, he wrapped parts of himself up and put them in a secure area of his mind so they wouldn't be part of a process that both repulses and fascinated him."
"It was as if he had a keyring in his pocket, only most of the keys just opened ugly places that he had to stop visiting because they were starting to feel too much like home."
"Somewhere in the decaying apple of his father's mind was a worm of a thought that the old man listened to. It had wriggled through his skull, sending him instructions that he deciphered in his own way."The characters are truly distinctive. From the paranoid Jacob Coleridge who keeps sod in his refrigerator, to the FBI Special Agent who is tattooed with Dante's Inferno over his entire body, all the way down to minor supporting characters, including an autistic child who recreates images like they're puzzles. And as with most actual people, each character has unlikeable traits, but each character also has sympathetic traits. The question that builds the suspense, though, is which character is capable of these diabolical crimes.
Pobi's development of the storm is artistically-crafted to give Dylan anthropomorphic characteristics and multiple layers of significance in the plot. Symbolism and allusion are two of Pobi's strongest tools in his writing tool chest; readers looking for extra depth in their books will find exactly that in BLOODMAN.
Another shining element in this dark thriller is Pobi's use of humor. It often comes out of nowhere and does nothing to detract from the dark, heavy tone of the novel. BLOODMAN would still be an incredible novel without the humor, but the inclusion gives it a little bonus flavor:
"Of all the detritus, the Charger moved the slowest, tumbling over and over on its side, one door gone, the lights somehow still glimmering like the eyes of a dying robot. Barbie moved quickets, staying upright with the help of her buoyant plastic injection-molded breasts and the bubble of air trapped in her ancient, empty head."
Finally, a thriller is not a quality thriller without a fast-paced, suspenseful plot. Pobi achieves this through unforeseen plot twists, flashbacks, changes in perspective and subtle red herrings. He plants clues and plays fair with the reader, but BLOODMAN is a story where most readers won't realize the clues until the whole story has unfolded. BLOODMAN at its core is a stellar mystery.
No one should be surprised if this book shows up on my end of the year favorites list. I'm looking forward to what Pobi will come up with next!
BLOODMAN is available in hardcover (ISBN: 978-1612182605) and trade paperback (ISBN: 978-1612182131) from Thomas & Mercer. It is also available on audio (ISBN: 978-1455842094) from Brilliance, narrated by Luke Daniels.