Horror writer Gavin Corlie moves to a secluded house on Lake Caldasac after his wife dies, and befriends a thirteen-year-old boy Finn Horn, who loves fishing, uses a wheelchair and is obsessed with killing the Lake’s legendary monster. Mannheim Rex reads like a monster movie, a contemporary combination of Moby Dick and Jaws, and it’s full of action and suspense that monster movie fans will enjoy watching on the screen.
Finn’s hunt for the monster is made especially urgent because of his condition. He only has a few months or years left to live, and he wants to do something extraordinary in that time. At one point, he admits that he wants to kill the monster so he’ll be remembered forever, and while his doctor Laurel tries to reassure him that he’ll be remembered regardless, he’s a bit more practical and points out that to most of the world, he’s nobody. Killing the monster, and thereby also proving its existence, will ensure his place in history books. Finn is also wisecracking and fun, and so determined in his quest that he’s at the lake before 4 am every morning, so it’s fun cheering him on and hoping he does catch the monster.
While Finn and Gavin hunt for the lake monster, a very real monster also resides in their town, Sheriff Pope. He likes killing people (often in bloody, brutal ways) and sexually assaulting young children. More than the lake monster, Pope emerges as the villain of the story, particularly as he becomes obsessed with Gavin and Finn, and their friendship. This had the potential of turning really dark and creepy, but Pobi keeps the tone brisk and continues with the monster movie feel, so it’s more about cheering on the good guys as they stay out of Pope’s crosshairs and waiting to see if and how the sheriff will get his just desserts.
One thing that did stand out and that I loved is the romance between Gavin and Laurel. In many ways, Gavin is a fairly typical horror story / monster movie hero — young, (39 years old) handsome, fighting his own demons — and one can easily imagine any number of actors filling the role. In movies, the love interest would likely be an actress much younger than he, likely in her 20s. So I love that Laurel is actually older than Gavin, and at 56, almost two decades older. It’s a neat reversal of the usual Hollywood practice, which is pretty awesome. I do wish we saw a bit more of her age in her description, which mostly says she has small breasts and is a size 4 but makes no mention of any marks of age, but regardless, it’s a pretty cool thing to happen in this book.
Overall, Mannheim Rex is a fun, quick read about the hunt for a monster, with a subplot about the monsters in our midst. The characters are nicely fleshed out, and at times, Pobi seems more interested in Gavin, Laurel and Finn’s family dynamic than in the hunt for the monster, which is nice. Recommended reading for the cottage, preferably one with a lake.
Thank you to Simon and Schuster Canada for an advance reading copy of this in exchange for an honest review.