18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
To be clear, this isn't just a monster story, there's more here than that.
Gavin Corlie is a broken man. His wife was killed in a horrific car crash, and the traumatized horror writer is having a hard time moving forward. In a flash of clarity, he asks his assistant to find him a house. He needs to get away, to regroup and find him a house she does!
Gavin moves five hours away to a tiny hamlet near the town of New Mannheim. It is here that he meets Finn Horn, a 13 year old boy, who's body is being ravaged by bone cancer.
The two form an unlikely, but surprisingly believable, friendship. Finn believes there is a monster in the forbidding depths of Lake Caldasac, and Gavin chooses to believe in Finn.
The friendship between a man emotionally broken and a young boy that is physically breaking is the heart of this book.
This long book, clocking in at over 500 pages, there is a lot to digest. Author, Robert Pobi, is adept at character formation. He created one character so foul, that I actively wished for something horrific to happen to him! The idea that monsters aren't just from out nightmares is nothing new, they can take a human form as well, and Pobi does a good job of giving his characters some depth.
We get a payoff, but not until the very end, and I had no problem digesting the sub-plots and the development of the story. Though it is a long book, it went by very quickly for me.
Pobi left the ending wide open, adn I'm curious to see if there is/will be a second book with Gavin and Finn.
16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
It took me two weeks to finish this book. That may sound normal to most readers who actually have better things to do... but I usually blast through a book in three days or less. But I don't want to blame the book for this, okay maybe a little. I knew it was about fishing and that all I know about fishing is watching Jeremy Wade yell `fish on!' when he hooks a good one. And maybe I'm not watching River Monsters for the right reason. But I thought I could hang if there was a monster involved.
But a book about fishing is going to obviously have moments of patiently waiting for the fish to do what you want them to do... apparently even fish monsters don't make themselves available when you want them to. So I probably would have cut approximately 100 pages out of this book. Sorry, but spare me from perfect dead wives and precocious sick children. Yes, I'm a meanie. I did spend most of the book dreading that the cat was going to get eaten by the mysterious monster.
Gavin is a famous writer, who after losing his aforementioned wife and becomes the standard issue suicidal drunk. He realizes that a change is in order and moves to a small town perched (heh) on the edge of a mysterious lake where strange things have been happening though luckily (?) it also has what I assume is a lazy medical examiner who is more than happy to wrap up cases with the proverbial boating accident as cause of death. Just to keep things interesting, there is also a crazy sheriff running the town who I don't think could be more crazy and/or evil if he tried. Him, I don't understand, but I tried.
Luckily Gavin soon becomes friends with the magical sick child who seems to perform amazing feats of daring do even though we're constantly reminded of his limitations. Not too sure about that either. But Finn the magical sick child is determined to catch the deadly monster lurking in Lake Caldasac after it almost kills him. And really, throughout the book the characters, good and bad, do things that make them seem like quite the psychopaths and never get called on it.
I think I read this so slowly because I was trying to read between the lines for hidden meanings, then I realized I was simply having a post traumatic stress disorder reaction to a tenth grade reading assignment involving a white whale and a teacher who would have been better suited to be a prison warden. (I don't know why the lantern is swinging! Maybe it's windy! Please, no more principal's office!) So this book wasn't written with me in mind.
But I do think there was a story line missed here that would have amped up the action and suspense, and some plot lines that should have been given a miss. But I didn't hate it. I just hope there won't be a written test on it later.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Best selling horror author Gavin Corlie flees the memories of his deceased wife by moving to an isolated community in upstate New York. The lakefront property is rumored to be haunted and the lake itself sems to be harboring some incredible monster. For years, mysterious deaths and disappearances have been covered up by the corrupt sheriff and the medical examiner. When a wheelchair bound boy narrowly avoids becoming the next victim, Corlie becomes involved in an epic monster quest that could be the death of him.
This book successfully incorporates all the ingredients necessary for a good story: appealing protagonists, villianous villians and a totally inhuman monster. Gavin is believable, likeable and human as is his love interest, the beautiful Dr. Laurel. Finn, the young boy is terrifically drawn. Even though confronted with his own mortality, he is still all kid. The pill popping sheriff is more monstrous than the monster, lethal because he can be, no because he musg to survive. The book is well written and infused with a warmth uncommon in this genre.
The biggest downside to the book is that it is overly long. Not all of the 532 pages were necessary and the book would have benefited from paring it down. Overall, I enjoyed this book. It is a fun fish tale with engaging characters that make you care.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
I wanted to like this story and at times I did. Back in the day, I enjoyed Peter Benchley for a good creature thriller (Benchley, not a great writer, but could tell an exciting story). Mannheim Rex has a good base. Gavin Corlie, horror writer extraordinaire, grieving over the loss of his wife, moves to Mannheim and fixes up an old house at the egde of a bay that connects to the small town's lake, Lake Caldesac, (meaning dead end). His old house is supposedly haunted, but that's only alluded to, not fleshed out, but some detail involving a haunted house may have added to the spookiness that is lacking in this thriller. Anyway, he accidentally scares away a lone boy fishing in his bay and the child, Finn, almost dies in his efforts to get away from Corlie, who's frightened the boy by calling to him from his, formerly deserted dock. Finn has had bone cancer and lost the use of his legs so he has a special chair bolted to the boat that allows him to do what he loves most, fish. But, in his rush to get away from Corlie, his boat is attacked (by something in the water) and he barely makes it out of the lake alive.
Corlie and Gavin become friends when Corlie buys a bunch of fishing stuff and a new boat for Gavin, because he is very, very wealthy. To take his mind off things (and perhaps gleen material for a new horror novel), Gavin Corlie and Finn make it their mission to catch whatever is in the water.
In the interim, people are killed by the monster in the water, and there is a very strange, drug addicted sheriff running this town (consider every cliche about an evil sheriff, and you've nailed this character). The women in the book are not too bright as well. For example, the love interest of Corlie is Lauren, a bright doctor at the hospital. The first time she goes to Gavin's house - she drinks too many whiskey sours and wakes up in her underwear and can't remember if she slept with him. Maybe in the doctor's early twenties she might have done that as an intern? She is older than Gavin, and for me, being a bright doctor, she would have had more sense. Okay, whatever.
This book could have been very good, had 200 or so pages of its mass cut. There are many redundant statements: Unless a chair is going to sprout wings and fly, help catch the monster, or have a very important part in the plot, I don't need to read that Mr. Johannson built the Airondack chair, specially made for Gavin, four or five separate times. The 'little boy,' doesn't need to be referred to as a 'little boy,' four times on one page. We get it.
I don't want to be too harsh, but if a claim is made that a book is a tribute to Jaws or other famous 'monster in the sea or lake,' books, it should live up to the promise. The author's purple prose is at times, way over blown. There are too many tentacles reaching for nothing. There are too many points hitting the reader over the head which don't amount to anything in the storyline. All in all, I would have loved this book if it had been edited, a lot, and I don't know why it wasn't-it does have promise as a thriller, but it was painful at times for me to read-especially the redundant statements and the dialoque was a bit crazy too.
If you found a pair of legs, could you determine if they were from a female or male? If you could, you are smarter than the deputies in Mannheim. As this book stands now, it's a rough draft. There are inconsistancies, redundant phrases and descriptions, and some nonsense. As a rough draft, it's pretty good. As a polished book, not so great.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Robert Pobi's second novel, Mannheim Rex, falls firmly within the territory of a literary genre I coined. I call it "trashy underwater fiction," (TUF) and have ever since I was the editor of a magazine for scuba divers. There are many subgenres of TUF: killer marine life, mermaids, talking dolphins, undersea city, etc. Mannheim Rex is of the "lake monster" subgenre. And I ask you, how can you go wrong? There's a lake, and you have a monster. It almost writes itself.
Well, let's give credit where credit is due. I think Mr. Pobi had a hand in this. After the requisite mysterious fishing death, the novel opens in the New York apartment of a hugely successful horror novelist. If you stretch your imagination, you can probably think of a real-world counterpart. Not yet forty, Gavin Corlie has realized the kind of success most men only dream about--but that can't bring his wife back. Unable to move past his grief, he knows something has to change. Almost on a whim, he buys a house upstate on Lake Caldasac.
There, Corlie begins to find some measure of peace, and begins to make friends--first with Finn, a handicapped thirteen-year-old boy, and then with the local doctor treating him. But Finn also introduces Gavin to the mysterious goings on at the lake. The two of them join together on a quest to uncover the truth and to hunt a lake monster.
Now, this is all pretty familiar territory to aficionados of TUF, but Pobi's having fun with the genre tropes. He'll win no literary awards, but I've seen writing that's far worse. The plot was fairly predictable--especially the identity of the mystery monster--but some scenes (like a certain basement sequence) elevated the material briefly. The characters were a mixed bag. Corlie was enjoyable enough, but Finn drove me nuts! I wanted to punch that little handicapped kid! He was so annoying. Also, in addition to the threat in the lake, the novel features a second antagonist. This character was COMPLETELY over-the-top. It was actually a little hard to believe what I was reading at times. The novel's pace was okay, a somewhat surprising fact given the book's inflated 540-page length.
Mannheim Rex isn't literature, but if you're reading this review, I don't think that's what you're looking for. You want to know the best thing about lake monsters? They can turn out to be almost anything. I'd not encountered this culprit before, and despite some predictability, Mannheim Rex is a welcome addition to my trashy underwater fiction shelves.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Who doesn't love a good fish story? Pobi's novel blends the joys of fishing with an homage to Jaws. Set in Lake Caldesac, or Lake Dead-End, an upstate New York fictitious lake, Pobi's book opens with a gruesome scene reminiscent of Benchley's classic. His descriptive prose and realistic (but familiar) characters lend the book a cinematic quality, making it a very readable and fun experience. And though famous horror writer Gavin Corlie feels a bit cliched at times, his counterpart, the quite tenacious and handicapable Finn, is completely new and very likable. And Pobi's novel has double the monsters - the mysterious aquatic one and the truly loathsome and vile Sheriff Xavier Pope. Pope only becomes worse as the story continues. He is definitely one of the most hatable villains that I have encountered in a long time!
The rather unlikely friendship between Gavin and Finn blossoms throughout the book, giving this fish story a lot more heart and humour than you would expect after that opening scene. Other minor characters add a lot, too - I particularly liked the Liverpuddlian, Duffy, who sort of took on the role of Quint. I would have liked Pobi to further explore the past owner of Gavin's haunted house on the lake. And the New Mannheim/Mannheim connection goes inexplicably unmentioned! But, the biggest downfall of the book is that for a pretty much straight-up adventure novel, the 500+ page count is a bit too high. The book drags a bit at times with some redundancies, and a tighter focus would have been appreciated. On the other hand, I love the juxtaposition of the two monsters, as well as the surprisingly extensive character development. The story is never actually dull, though some transitions between chapters do not run smoothly at all. These choppy sections can be a bit confusing, which is the biggest pace-killer in the book. Ultimately, it's a fun and fresh fish story!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on December 8, 2012
While Pobi's sense of place is very strong and his charcaters are clear, he spends much too much time telling us backstories of characters we don't need. He often repeats whole sentences verbatum. Many times it seems he doesn't reread a chapter before he goes on to the next one. He regularly leaves his characters in a hightened situation then starts the next chapter some time later with no reference to the change in time or how they are dealing with what happened in the previous chapter. After MUCH
build up, his ending is unconvincing. Then there is another ending that introduces a new element that has little to do with the main story. I felt constantly manipulated.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
I loved this book. I love monster books and movies and in "Mannheim Rex" I hit the jackpot. Two monsters - one natural and one human.
The protagonists of the book - horror author Gavin Corlie and his handicapped teenage friend, OBM Finn Horn, are perfect working together. Character development was super. Dialogue was totally believable.
It is a doorstopper of a book, at 500+ pages, but it held my interest until the very last page. Could it have been a little shorter? Maybe but I think we would have missed some of the great interplay between Gavin and Finn; and Gavin and Laurel, his love interest. And all the side characters that helped bring this book to life.
Not only is this a book about monsters but it is a book about friendship, love, respect, and loss.
And Sheriff Pope - nasty piece of work he is. A truly despicable excuse for a human. Makes for great reading though.
I enjoyed Pobi's first book Bloodman a whole bunch but I liked "Mannheim Rex" more.
Do be WARNED that there is violence in this book and strong language.
Hey, did I happen to mention I loved this book? It's one of my favorites of the year.
16 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on October 29, 2012
For approximately the first third of the book, main character (Gavin) is highly suicidal and self-medicating. He gets a house out in the country to take a break from his past. His assistant implies he's profuse at swearing (he is) by calling him "Mr. Tourette's." Gavin is a successful and well-known horror book author. His wife (Chelsea) has been in a fatal car accident, dropping him into a horror story of his own, and he feels the need to get away from it all for a while. In New Mannheim, Gavin finds himself getting to know new friends--a boy 26 years younger and a woman 16 years older.
I found pretty much all of the characters to be unlikable, but the sheriff tops them all--he's willing to kill if someone so much as talks back to him. He's the real villain in the story, which a reader catches on to really quickly upon reading the book. This is not a book about a lake monster; it's a book about a human misogynist and child predator.
The characters all kind of blend into one--especially with their strong vocabulary choices. The women have masculine attributes in the way they act or think. Even Finn, who is thirteen years old, comes across as an adult--although part of this is attempted to be explained by him having cancer, which made him grow up quickly. The references to females may be offensive to a female audience--Gavin considers his dreams about his former wife "filthy" and "pornographic," and you "get" to read about them, as well as his developing relationship with his new female friend.
To be honest, during almost the whole book I kept thinking, "Okay, let's get on with it! Where is the monster?" I did the math--you have to read through nearly 95% of the book to get to the actual part where the action is drummed up and the main characters are directly dealing with the monster. But it's more of a letdown--there's really no huge scene where you're worried for them. I think one reason this book fails as a thriller is that the town is unknowing about the monster. Aside from being a bit unrealistic, this takes all the thrill factor away. People learn about the monster when he kills them. There's no possibility for a building or growing fear in a community when a monster is a complete secret. Most disappointing, though, is the fact that the title character is not really the focus of the book. There are some random attacks thrown in throughout, but not enough to scare a reader. And though the villainous sheriff is downright repulsive, he's not who I picked up the book to read about. The short last chapter is scary, yes, but it also doesn't make much sense and reminds me of Toni Morrison' s book _Beloved_.
I have to grade this one on a curve--I would give it one star, but I'm sure part of that--aside from the book overall being dissatisfying and not really being about what it purports to be--is due to the gratuitous language and offensive way in which women are portrayed. So a two is being generous to make up for my own bias against some of the content.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on November 21, 2012
Horror author Gavin Corlie is spiraling out of control. The recent death of his wife has left him reeling and ending it all is frequently on his mind. He decides his only option is a complete change of scenery -- getting away from the places and spaces he once shared with her. He finds the perfect fixer-upper in New Mannheim, on the banks of Lake Caldasac. The picturesque setting and the quaint town should be a destination for fishermen and tourists, but New Mannheim is hiding a secret. The town has seen a shocking number of disappearances and strange accidents. Most people avoid the lake as a whole and take their fishing elsewhere. When a local boy, Finn Horn, barely survives an accident on the lake while fleeing from Gavin, the author feels a sense of responsibility. After all, the boy was welcome to fish in Gavin's little bay, but the shock of the new arrival was enough to scare him away. After meeting Finn and hearing his story, though, Gavin becomes interested in the lake's strange history and the rumors of a monstrous killing machine that lives in its depths.
I'm a fan of a fun creature feature horror read, so I'd been looking forward to my chance to dive into this one for a while. It hit the spot for sure. It's a bit schlocky, a bit gory, and lots of fun! Admittedly I have a bit of a phobia about underwater creepies, so this is also the perfect sort of skin crawling read for a person like me.
Aside from the creature itself, Gavin and Finn really made the story for me, though. Gavin and his authorly insights are fun on their own but as an author who's also a widow in mourning -- one who does take his time telling his own story -- he's appealing on a lot of levels. Finn, the handicapped thirteen-year-old who becomes Gavin's best friend and partner in crime, is sarcastic and witty as well as completely quirky.
There's plenty of violence and death to go along with the creepy creature and the cool characters -- and there's an entertaining story besides, so you pretty much can't go wrong with this one if you're looking for a fun addition to your TBR. I tell you what, though, I wouldn't move to Lake Caldasac!
I will admit, having read some of the other reviews on this title, that the Sheriff in particular was one of the downsides to this book. He definitely comes across as a really bad person (the goal, obviously, in creating this character) but I did feel he could have been downplayed some and the book may have benefitted. The other downside is that there definitely could have been more appearances on the part of the monster itself. As a whole, though, I thought MANNHEIM REX was just a fun book.