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, he's beginning to suspect that someone else wants him to be. As Carter reluctantly investigates, he discovers that H. P. Lovecraft's tales were more than just fiction, and he must accept another unexpected and far more unwanted inheritance.
©2015 Jonathan L. Howard (P)2015 Macmillan Audio
"Carter & Lovecraft is a Pandora's box loaded with all the wonderfully twisted stuff I love, including a two-fisted homicide cop turned PI, warped realities, a mysterious bookstore, the Cthulhu mythos, a dash of romance, and creepy fish-men. What's not to love? Jonathan L. Howard knows how to show his readers a wickedly good time." (Christopher Golden, New York Times best-selling author of Dead Ringers)
The end of the book seems short-circuited. The story was great, but then wraps up and ends all of a sudden. Then everything is different with little explanation.
Carter & Lovecraft is a mildly entertaining pastiche, something akin to a Shadow, Doc Savage or pulp detective novel with plenty of Lovecraftian shenanigans thrown in for good measure. Much like some of the material from which it draws inspiration, it plays out as formula. It's homage to Lovecraft never really goes beyond the sort of surface level approach that's been done literally hundreds of times now: chapters named after Lovecraft stories, characters with obvious connections to the author or his work, overly familiar Lovecraftian settings and themes, etc. It might all seem fresh to unfamiliar eyes (or, in this case, ears) but if you're familiar with this sort of fiction it plays out rather predictably, not unlike an evening of the Call of Cthulhu roleplaying game. The addition of some pop culture references does little to enhance the proceedings and by the end of the book, when I should have been most engaged in the story, I found myself impatiently waiting for it wrap up.
It's not bad. The book ends in an interesting place and the narration is solid. It's just not going to surprise you unless you're pretty unfamiliar with this sort of HPL-influenced work.
I was intrigued by the premise. A few chapters in I was disappointed & I've had a hard time finishing it. I'll explain why:
1. These aren't characters. I think maybe he's going for a boilerplate, noir-ish, rock-jawed Marlowe type, but you don’t walk away with a sense of him as anything other than a pastiche.
The supporting cast is worse: there are the usual suspects, mustache twirling, sneery bad guy, smug rich-guy politician, dumb cop, but the biggest offense is they’re usually just mouthpieces for wikipedia-fueled info dumps: A bookseller with no reason at all to have insight into such things goes into a long explanation of a failed attempt to rig the Irish lottery. The villain gives a long, tedious explanation about math theory to a store clerk.
Wait, let me stop there, cos the villain is a whole problem unto himself. He doesn’t just broadcast his secret knowledge of how he manipulates reality, he also calls up the main character to give him leads on who his accomplices are. It’s not just sloppy plotting, the book hinges on these kinds of leaps: two characters discussing the mystery? At the heart of the book (something concerning an aluminum cube I’m still not clear on and too uninvested in to go back and try to figure out) put forth a pretty ludicrous theory, and because this is (of course) the plot, it is instantly accepted as gospel truth and moved forward with without any fact checking. (By a detective!!) It isn’t stumbled upon, or deduced, it’s just programed into the characters’ mouth and comes out when required. A lot of the plot chugs along like this (and this book purports to be a mystery) plot isn’t uncovered, it’s fed; plot coupons are doled out by background characters like NPCs in a video game.
2. The writer is a goodish plotter; he comes up with interesting ideas, but not a skilled technician as far as taking those concepts and turning them into a fun yarn that is enjoyable to read. Especially when writing about the fantastic, you're trying to describe something the reader hasn't necessarily seen but the author is especially clumsy in this regard: there are markings on an artifact, simply described as 'striations', then he'll repeat the word over and over again, so you're getting bludgeoned with a indistinct word that you don't quite understand in the first place. Are they like letters? Cuneiforms? This happens again with the 'surface' of some sort of air that's also water, he doesn't sell the concept then reeats the word surface like 10 times. the surface was almost to his head, he could feel the surface near his lips, what would happen if the surface covered his head, etc. I guess a guy drowns on air? Doesn't matter in the next scene he's someplace else.
3. This is more of a pet peeve of mine, but the hero has a sort of plot immunity that is never fully explained. Some strange malady causes people to react in an instant and put a gun to their head and kill themselves, except, when it happens to him, for some reason it doesn't work. For no other reason than he's the main character. He gets saved from death a few times in a way I still don't understand, a kind of deus ex machina.
Now, as I write this stuff down and really think about it, this book is actually terrible. It’s a mess. The Lovecraft stuff, if that’s what you’re here for, it’s really short on. If you like serial killer, yarn-wall procedural stuff, you’re also going to be disappointed. If you want a hard boiled noir story, you’re going to be most disappointed of all, ‘cos the writer broadcasts (quite frequently) his avid distaste for PI tropes (though the lead is a PI). All this stuff gets tossed in a pot and stewed till its mush and in the end, nothing surprising happens and most disappointing of all, it’s particularly joyless to read.
Narration was fine.
Language was great, dialogue was believable and natural, atmosphere was fantastic; I honestly don't remember the last time a book actually scared me. Accurately hits the mark on that Lovecraftian feeling without at all relying on the grammar of Lovecraft, which is fantastic. If it hadn't been for the liberal and predictable sprinkling of every progressive trope in every single chapter, I would've stayed engrossed through the entire book. But those tropes' appearances were the only really predictable occurrences, and the novel was incredibly enjoyable in spite of the constant, barely subtle moral aggrandizing.
Aspiring author, classic literature scholar, fantasy and horror junkie, all wrapped up in a cute little package.
This book was not at all what I thought it was when I purchased it. What it is is a story of a hardboiled detective who inherits a bookstore, as a story hook. It starts a little slow, but once the chemistry of the characters starts, the story moves a bit better.
The lead characters are forced to hunt a serial killer, who is sort of uninspiring, but he is what propels the story forward. Just because he is uninteresting doesn't mean that I did not appreciated the story; some people are just uninteresting, and I find it believable that some characters can be that way, too.
My biggest complaint about this book is the narrator. Though his male voices are superb, and very much suit the genre, his female voices sound like husky drag queens. It was very distracting.
All and all I would recommend this book to hard boiled fans who have an interest in Cthulhu mythos, but not so much Lovecraft fans or purists.
One of the core tenants of Lovecraftian stories is insanity. Not just outer gods and monsters, but that the world may not be what our characters think it is and that knowledge frightens our lead. In the case of Daniel Carter, when he inherits a business from a man he never met and meets the black female descendant of HP Lovecraft, an author he never gave much thought to, he finds that the world is not what he thinks. If you are hoping there are monsters and Cthulu peppered throughout this, you will be disappointed. But if you want a mystery that leaves our lead characters frightened and aware of a greater threat beyond this world, you should definitely look this book up. From the beginning I could not stop listening. Jonathan L Howard clearly understands HP's books and while he heavily relies on exposition here and there with a few history lessons, he presents it in a very engrossing manner. The only complaint I have is that the ending feels abrupt, but it's clear that there is more to be had with Carter and Lovecraft. I liked this book and Ari Fliakos' narration was great. Buy this book.
One of the better adaptations of HPL. I enjoyed it, and will look for more of J.L. Howard's work.
Lovecraft the sharp, tough, and wry bookseller.
Great voices and timing that moved the story along.
The Perceptual Twist: A Lovecraftian Mystery
I would not have bought this book on chance to read it, but as a lark downloaded it. Thanks!!!
"all things you would expect from a Lovecraftian"
this is not a tale for those looking to hear more about lovecrafts creations. instead it is a story that holds up on all its own. For those who haven't got around to understanding or researching the mythos, this book will be all the more brain raching chilling. leaving you feeling small, lost and insignificant in the grander scheme. I think not knowimg allows this story to be even more impressive.
for die hard Lovecraftians there are homeges to lovecrafts work, but mpst importantly this novel doesnt depend upon them. And for me, reinstills why I love the mythos so much.
"A sequel is needed"
This book was awesome I I really like the cojsept of the twist and how it can be used to mess with reality and that bit with the Deep One Awesome simply brilliant
"Did we do the right thing?"
Part hard - boiled detective novel, part creepy horror, and entirely enjoyable. The reader nailed characterisation, the plot was pacey, and I am hoping for a sequel.
"Started well but..."
Beautifully read story that started as a detective thriller with a supernatural twist. But characters never developed and plot got lost, the ending a mess.
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