Thomas & Mercer
Trade Paper, 428 pages, $14.95
Review by Sheila M. Merritt
Writing credible fiction about psychopaths is difficult. The author must create a severely mentally disturbed, yet comprehensible, character. The reader should be able to somewhat fathom the deranged mindset, and be intrigued by the unhinged individual. In Bloodman, a psychological mystery novel by Robert Pobi, the murderous maniac’s actions seem untenable. In addition to the characterization issue, there are other problems. The book’s point of view structure exposes the plot holes, and the story culminates in an ending that is not the surprise that it should be.
The premise isn’t devoid of potential: Jake Cole works for the FBI. He has an unusual facility to reconstruct crime scenes in his mind; to envision how a murder was committed. While gifted in that area, his private life has not been stellar. A former substance abuser, Jake has emotional baggage. He is estranged from his famous artist father, but goes back to the family home when an Alzheimer’s related accident necessitates his presence. In visiting the hospitalized dad, Jake becomes embroiled in a series of grisly murders that have a personal ring to them. The killer appears to have a vendetta against Jake: The Bloodman skins his victims while they are still alive – which is how Cole’s mother was murdered many years ago.
The savage slayings escalate in number and frequency. Jake’s wife and son disappear; apparent captives of the madman. A Category 5 hurricane is approaching. Can things get much worse? Of course they can. And do.
Author Robert Pobi’s ambitious first novel is contrived in its rendering. It displays narrative deficiencies that reflect the difficulties in constructing a believable psycho. Classic crazy Norman Bates said, “We all go a little mad sometimes.” Making that madness fascinating requires a deft hand, and Bloodman lacks the deftness that enfolds and caresses the dementia.