BLOODMAN by Robert POBI (A review)

(This post is part of the Wunderkind PR Blog Tour to promote Robert Pobi's book "BLOODMAN". As I am on the road until Monday and have been experiencing technical difficulties with hotel servers, I am unable to post an interview at the moment --I even have problems posting this update! In the meantime, you can read my review of the book. Better yet, just read the book, and then come back in a day or two for Part One of my long interview with the interesting and sympathique Robert Pobi).
Canto XII of Dante’s Inferno takes place in the First Ring of the Seventh Circle of Hell where sinners who used violence against others suffer for all eternity in a boiling river of blood.

Bloodman is Montreal writer Robert Pobi’s first novel. FBI special agent Jake Cole has Dante’s twelfth Canto tattoed all over his body. Cole, who specialises in hunting down killers, is back in his childhood neighbourhood of Montauk, Long Island, to care for his mentally ill father. They have been estranged from each other for nearly 30 years but they still have something in common. While his father is a talented and famous painter, Jake hunts down killers for whom murder is an art. He possesses the uncanny ability to decipher the modus operandi of a killer, to figure out their artist-specific language and the personal symbolism and subtext in their work.

While Jake tries to put his dad’s house in order, he's called to put his talent to use by helping the local sheriff solve the gruesome murders of a mother and her child. As if that wasn’t enough, one of the strongest hurricanes ever is nearing the island. While residents start evacuating, other murders are committed and it becomes clear that the killer is getting closer to Jake, threatening his own wife and young son. It gets even more personal when Jake finds clues left by his father who seems to have known about a possible threat, and might even know who the killer is. But with his father now lying in a hospital bed, heavily sedated following a serious injury, Jake will need to resolve things without him.

Characters like Sheriff Hauser, Jake’s uncle Frank, and Spencer, an old friend who is now a cop, all bring a touch of normality and humanity to a twisted and disturbing world where victims are skinned alive and bleed to death. Although they try to assist Jake, there’s not much this trio can do as he’s the only one who can really make sense of this madness. Everyone else becomes a witness to his descent to a hellish place as he tries to stop the flow of blood, while avoiding ending up in its river.

The pace of the story is incredibly intense and the resolution of the plot becomes even more urgent as we learn about events from Jake’s childhood. Add to that an ominous atmosphere not unlike the one in Dennis Lehane’s Shutter Island, plus a serial killer both as twisted and intelligent as any created by Thomas Harris. Even if the approaching storm is not a very original method of heightening the sense of urgency, Pobi never lets its presence overtake his plot. In fact, the hurricane works well here as a metaphor for the powerful maelstrom sucking up Jake’s life in its vortex.

Pobi writes like a seasoned author, very much in control of language and rhythm. One aspect that might bother some readers is that he consciously leaves some questions unanswered. But for those like me who enjoy a few open threads that make you think about a book for a while longer, it is a very satisfying read. Bloodman is a literary thriller written with a great sense of timing and with visual qualities that make the whole story an unnerving film in the mind's eye. It will surely make a lasting impression, and a few scenes might even haunt me as long as the wheelchair scene in Red Dragon has since the 1980s. I can’t reveal them here because that would ruin the surprise. You’ll just have to take my word for it and read the book.

You can visit Robert Pobi's website. Tell him I sent you.

July 2012


In Lonesome Animals, we find Russell Strawl, a former sheriff who is the best at hunting down and catching criminals, from the late 1890s to the early 1900s. If they didn’t resist, he’d bring them back to be judged; if they did resist, he’d just kill them: "He killed eleven men in flight because the circumstances made returning them alive too much trouble." He usually just shot them but when he felt it'd be a good sentence, he used a slow and painful death. His reputation grew and became almost legendary, but he also had made many enemies.

Now retired, probably in his early 60s (it's the 1930s), Strawl is hired back by the law to find a vicious serial killer of Native Americans who dismembers the bodies in various fashions. As Strawl goes on the hunt, he is still very much tormented by his past, especially by the blood of innocents that he shed and by the death of his two former wives. He is joined on the road by his adopted son, a Native American originally named Elaskolatat who now calls himself Elijah. 

These two men, who are family in everything except blood, are very different at first glance but much the same in their core. Blood and violence will link them for the rest of their lives. As their journey progresses and as they go down the list of suspects from the crime report, we discover a region and its people, a way of life, and in all of this, a humanity that always keeps an open door for dialogue and understanding, even amidst violence: in every disagreement, be it as non-physical as in discussing different beliefs, or as painful as in choosing between guilt and innocence, or retribution and forgiveness, there is always the possibility of sitting down, talking, and considering every point of view.


A former member of the Police Force, be it a detective, a cop, a blood spatter expert, or anyone else who used to own a badge doesn’t necessarily possess what it takes to write a good crime novel. Just because that person has an insider’s knowledge and many years of experience doesn’t mean that it will magically produce a great book. The writing aspect is often overlooked and we’ve all read bad novels written by ex-cops.

David Swinson is a former detective with over 15 years of experience. Fortunately for us, he also writes well. Swinson’s first novel is a convincing and entertaining work that many experienced writers in the crime fiction genre would be proud to have written themselves. The voice of the narrator, Ezra Simeon, pulled me into the story right from the first few lines almost as if it was told to me privately, maybe at some pub while having a drink or two.

Simeon is a detective with the Washington PD. When the story begins, we learn that he suffers from Bell’s palsy, a temporary disorder that partially paralyses the left side of his face. Back from a short medical leave, and still very much self-conscious of his appearance, he is assigned to the Cold Case department where he thinks he’ll probably serve a few years before retiring. Exactly the peace and quiet he needs right now.

LA CHORALE DU DIABLE de Martin MICHAUD (French review)

C’est un inspecteur Lessard amaigri, tentant de mieux s’alimenter et de couper la cafféine, qu’on retrouve dans cette deuxième histoire après “Il ne faut pas parler dans l’ascenseur”. Il est séparé et vit avec son fils. La colocation ne se passe pas sans heurts et son moral en souffre. D’autant plus que sa dernière conquête vient de lui signifier son congé.

Appelé sur les lieux d’un drame familial où un père a massacré sa famille avant de se suicider, Lessard remarque une quantité inhabituelle de mouches dans l’appartement des victimes. Un jeune témoin de l’immeuble voisin dit avoir vu ces mouches et aussi un prêtre dans la cour, la nuit des meurtres. Que venait faire un prêtre sur les lieux du crime?

La scène a de quoi déranger le plus chevronné des enquêteurs et Lessard ne peut empêcher des souvenirs très personnels de refaire surface. Il est le seul rescapé d’un coup de folie de son père qui a décimé toute sa famille. Dans les moments de déprime de l'enquêteur, son petit frère Raymond revient à l’occasion lui tenir compagnie;  Lessard ne s’est jamais pardonné d’avoir survécu à ce drame. Le fait d’enquêter sur une histoire similaire le remue plus qu’il ne le voudrait et son supérieur finit par le mettre au repos lorsqu’il veut pousser les recherches au-delà des premières constatations. La théorie des meurtres suivi du suicide ne le satisfait pas et, se fiant à son instinct, il décide quand même de poursuivre l’enquête avec l’aide de contacts privilégiés à l’intérieur de l’escouade. Il s’aperçoit cependant assez vite qu’il n’est pas seul en piste.


This is the first guest post at The House of Crime & Mystery and I'd like to make it a regular trend. If you're a writer and would like to let people know about your work, please send me an email. I hope you'll take the opportunity to let my visitors learn (or learn more) about your stories, characters, inspiration, etc. Don't be shy.

The Idea is the Question
by John McFetridge

My four novels so far are a kind of loose series with many characters – from both sides of the law - appearing in all the novels but never as the main characters in any one novel.
But if not one main character, I do think the series has one main theme – everything I write seems to be interested in how people choose which ‘group’ to identify with and how that keeps people apart or brings them together.
I say, “seems to” because this isn’t something I set out to do.
I grew up in Montreal at a time when personal identitfication was a big deal – were you a federalist or a seperatist? If you were English it was assumed you were a federalist. But were you English or allophone? Irish-Canadian or Italian-Canadian? In the early 70s seperatists were usually identified as left-leaning socialists but what if you were an English left-leaning socialist union member with little interest in the ROC (Rest of Canada – most of us in Montreal at the time couldn’t see any difference between Toronto and Calgary)?
Or, the biggest issue, the one that started the most arguments, destroyed friendships and ripped families apart – and the one that is threatening a return to centre stage in Quebec – were you a Canadiens supporter or a Nordiques supporter?
As I said, I didn’t set out with a plan to follow a single theme or even to write a series. I’ve never really had much of a plan beyond working on what’s directly in front of me but over the course of a few books this theme has emerged.


After reading Chris F. Holm’s short story collection 8 Pounds, I knew he was freakin’ good, but he still had to prove it in long form. Here’s what he came up with to convince us:

A novel titled DEAD HARVEST.

He used to be Sam Thornton; for the past sixty-five years, he’s been a collector of souls. When someone’s time has come, the Collector takes the soul away, sends it to Heaven or Hell while the body dies.

But when he is sent to collect the soul of Kate MacNeil, a young woman who has just murdered her entire family and thus needs to literally go to Hell, the Collector doesn’t follow orders. ‘Cause something’s wrong. The girl’s soul is still pure, which means that she can’t be a murderer. Or is she?