CARTER AND LOVECRAFT by JONATHAN L HOWARD
HB, 306 pages, Thomas Dunne
I’ll probably get drummed out of the fantasy writer equivalent of the Groucho for this, but I’ve never been a fan of H P Lovecraft. Not even for comedy value, as Cheryl Morgan suggests in her review. Quite aside from some of his more unpleasant character traits, the actual writing has always left me with a feeling of “so what?” no matter how many words like “fecund” and “gibbous” and “Non-Euclidian” are bandied about…
Having said that, I do like Jonathan L Howard, commissioned to write “Carter and Lovecraft” as a tie-in for a potential new TV series. I like his humour, his dry wit, his occasional forays into deep weirdness and grotesquerie. And Carter and Lovecraft skirts the border between funny and dark with the skill of an ice dancer.
When burned-out detective Daniel Carter inherits a bookstore in Providence, Rhode Island, from an uncle he never knew he had, his life collides with that of Emily Lovecraft, fictional several-times great-granddaughter of the late HP, and they soon find themselves teamed up to solve a series of supernatural crimes all linked to both a sociopathic mathematician in possession of a non-Euclidian (natch) artefact, and an isolated hillbilly family with a terrifying secret. And there’s a twist, because there has to be a twist, as the mythos of Lovecraft collides with modern-day New England in a way that will have lasting consequences for both Dan and bookish Emily.
Emily in particular is a stand-out character, smart and capable, and so much more than just Velma to Carter’s more impulsive Daphne. There are things about her that would make her fictional ancestor roll in his grave, and that’s a twist that’s most satisfying, all things considered.
And there’s not a gibbous moon in sight, nothing is squamous, or even fecund, and yet the ideas of Lovecraft seep through into the modern-day in a delightfully sordid fashion. You don’t have to be a fan of either HP Lovecraft or his style of writing to enjoy Jonathan L Howard’s venture into this particular mythos. And if you like twisty cliffhanger endings, you’ll be scratching at the door with the mysterious damp patch that somehow evades your eye for a sequel….