Monsoon Blood


Check out my review of Robert Ward’s gritty Charm City noir:

In Four Kinds of Rain, Robert Ward spins a classic noir tale that is both riveting and relentless in its portrayal of a desperate middle-aged loser who has stubbornly kept the faith of his idealistic 60s youth while the world passed him by and turns to crime to bankroll one last shot at love with a much younger woman.

Ward’s main character, Baltimore psychologist Bobby Wells, is known as ‘the people’s shrink,” a threadbare title that feeds his self-loathing as his tie-dyed faith sours and curdles. He’s lost his wife to a glib Dr. Phil-like character and his savings to an unseemly gambling addiction. He’s struggling to make ends meet and barely has enough patients to keep his practice afloat.

Even his best friend, a journalist and fellow traveler of 60s idealism who reveres Dr. Bobby as a tattered saint of the down and out, feeds Wells’ deepening depression about his wasted life and his stubborn pursuit of ideals his contemporaries abandoned decades ago.

Although Ward’s book is full of shocking twists and turns, with action that keeps the narrative fast and taut, he is at his best describing Wells’ harrowing descent into increasingly manic and psychopathic behavior that he fails to recognize in himself and the thrill and delusional sense of entitlement he feels as his criminal acts escalate from ripping off a patient to murder.

Not even the love of a younger woman can turn him from his chosen path — instead, it seems to heighten his desperation, mania and money lust.

This is Jim Thompson territory and Ward walks it like he owns it, delivering a stark reminder that we all have a killer inside us.

Ward, born and raised in Baltimore, also shines when effortlessly capturing the unique and particular grittiness of Charm City. There’s a keen sense of place in this book that too many writers fail to create. Ward does so with a deft touch that avoids both caricature and the trappings of a local color piece.

The book’s title is a sly and bloody-minded play off the four meteorological categories of rainfall, ending with the monsoon. In the case of Dr. Bobby, the torrent is betrayal, blood and a bad end of the kind that happens to the protagonist in a classic noir tale.

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