From author Jonathan L. Howard comes the start of a thrilling supernatural series that brings the H.P. Lovecraft mythos into the twenty-first century, optioned by Warner Bros TV.
Daniel Carter used to be a homicide detective, but his last case -- the hunt for a serial killer -- went wrong in strange ways and soured the job for him. Now he's a private investigator trying to live a quiet life. Strangeness, however, has not finished with him. First he inherits a bookstore in Providence from someone he's never heard of, along with an indignant bookseller who doesn't want a new boss. She's Emily Lovecraft, the last known descendant of H.P. Lovecraft, the writer from Providence who told tales of the Great Old Ones and the Elder Gods, creatures and entities beyond the understanding of man. Then people start dying in impossible ways, and while Carter doesn't want to be involved, but he's beginning to suspect that someone else wants him to be. As he reluctantly investigates, he discovers that Lovecraft's tales were more than just fiction, and he must accept another unexpected, and far more unwanted inheritance.
This refreshingly original novel updates the eldritch horrors of H.P. Lovecraft for the 21st century. Dan Carter, a New York cop turned PI, heads to Providence, R.I., to claim a windfall inheritance from an unknown benefactor. That inheritance includes Hill's Books, an antiquarian bookstore run by Emily Lovecraft, a descendant of the great horror writer. (Her African-American heritage may be a sly nod to recent discussions of Lovecraft's racism.) Shortly afterward, Dan and Emily cross paths with William Colt, a student at local Clave College, whose mathematical savvy has given him access to the Twist, a perceptual portal to the Lovecraftian otherworld of cosmic horrors. Their confrontation proves to have been engineered by master manipulators with their own cosmic agenda, which Howard (the Johannes Cabal series) reveals gradually through the intercession of members from one of Lovecraft's quasi-human families. Howard sometimes makes explicit ideas that Lovecraft more effectively suggested, but his novel shows a thorough understanding of Lovecraft's conceptual horrors and features an ending that cleverly bears out those concepts.
This is a rather colorless mashup of a detective story (more Patterson than Hammett) and a Lovecraft story. Unfortunately it’s not an especially imaginative example of any of these, however. There’s not much story, and what little there is isn’t very cohesive. There’s more than a whiff of “oh here’s something freaky, and then here’s something else freaky,” and very little sense that the author had anything in mind tying the freaky things together, other than a guy who does things because he’s brilliant & malignant (and later, of course, stupid & naive). Events don’t flow from the characters organically. Characters do stupid things simply to fall into traps and move to the next plot cliché. He’s got characters spouting inane lines straight out of genres he’s previously insulted for being cliché. Also, the author doesn’t seem to have thought too deeply about what he later establishes the bad guy actually doing, because honestly it doesn’t explain the strange magics that happened before. (In that sense Stross’s Lovecraftian riffs are more interesting and successful.) And that ending! Wow. So empty. The plot formula says it’s time for the tables to turn, so they do.
There’s a lot of references to Lovecraft lore, both in the cutesy chapter names and pretty much all throughout the book. And I’m sure a lot of fans of Lovecraft will be drawn to it just for that.
… there’s just something wrong with this book. If you take away the elements copied from other authors, it’s a very bland and empty husk of a thing. There are moments that seem copied from Christopher Moore and M. R. James and a couple of times he tries to ape the style of William Gibson or William Burroughs, though not well. But mostly he’s copying from Lovecraft, whom he frequently execrates. And I have to say that there’s just something deeply obnoxious about being so relentlessly and repeatedly snotty and insulting about an author whose imagination so surpassed your own, and which you’re in the middle of copying so much and so colorlessly.
A dwarf standing on a giant’s shoulders doesn’t necessarily see the farther of the two, apparently. And sometimes he’s tempted to piss on the guy standing below. I listen to most of my audiobooks again. This won’t be one of them.