Friday, December 7, 2012

"Bloodman" by Robert Pobi

Special Agent Jake Cole is in Montauk, Long Island, to see his artist father Jacob Coleridge, who is the victim of encroaching senility and has also just burnt off his hands in a household accident. The two do not have a close relationship.

As it happens, Jake is called upon by Sheriff Mike Hauser. A woman and her son have been discovered skinned alive. Jake has an eidetic (photographic) memory, and has a unique ability to see into the minds of killers. But, really, don't they all these days?

The case quickly becomes personal for Jake, as his mother was skinned alive thirty-odd years ago, and it looks like it is the same killer. When Jake's girlfriend Kay and their son Jeremy arrive to visit, Jake must try to protect them from both the Bloodman and a rapidly approaching hurricane.

This is one of those dreaded "big twist" novels, where everything is set up for that big final revelation. That's fine if you've never read a thriller before and can get fooled by a twist ending that's been done dozens of times already, but if you're not completely stupid, it's frustrating and insulting. Aside of from being completely predictable, this one commits the other sin of being sleep-inducingly boring. This is despite lots of lurid descriptions of skinned victims, and kinky erotic asphyxiation sex between Jake and Kay. Blecch.

Then there's the over-reliance on description. You know what I mean. A hurricane is coming. Entire chapters are devoted to describing it. Entire chapters devoted to describing what a house looks like. And Jake and Mike spend a LOT of time repeating a conversation similar to this:

Mike: "Who would do something like this?"
Jake: "A monster", or "you don't want to know", or something else that manages to be both smug and vague.

As for the big twist, I'll leave you with the clues that let me figure out how it was all going to end. These are not spoilers, as they are all delivered within the first 150 pages. They are all repeated and explained in the finale, as the author assumes you were too stupid to pick up on them the first time around:

* The mother and son victims at the start of the novel are never identified, but all subsequent victims are.
* When Kay and Jeremy wave at tourists, they don't wave back. But they wave back to Jake.
* None of the other characters beside Jake ever talk to Kay and Jeremy.
* When Jake orders pizza, only one pizza is delivered, but he insists he ordered three.
* Jake has a contraption attached to his heart, which keeps him alive. It causes him to black out. A dead body is usually discovered shortly afterwards.

Other questions arise. How on Earth can Jake get clearance for field work when he has a device similar to a pacemaker keeping him alive? Why is his father recreating obscure portraits of a faceless figure as some sort of clue, rather than just revealing the truth? Despite the senility, he's depicted as having several lengthy periods of lucidity.

My answer is that every single element of this novel is contrived and artificial for the purpose of not only trying to keep that stupid twist ending a secret, but to justify its existence in the first place. This is a dull, mechanical and cynical novel. It has complete contempt towards its audience and is possibly the worst I have read this year (and I've read my share of stinkers).

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