Carter & Lovecraft by Jonathan L. Howard (5 out of 5)
I’ve been trying to read this book for three weeks. It is NOT an indication of it being boring. I’ve been in a mother of all depressions, and when I get that way, the reading suffers. And this time, it did. Happily, THIS is the book that may have helped me get out of that rut. I HOPE. I have about 27 posts to write on other books I read before I got so down, and they will be loading your email inbox sometime soon. I apologize in advance. But this.. THIS book…is nothing short of phenomenal. Howard is known primarily for his Johannes Cabal series. Four books in that series total. I need to read them now, for if they’re a fifth of the greatness of this book, well, let’s just say I need new authors! This is the first in a new series, and I can’t wait for the next one… I feel a need to go and read some H.P. Lovecraft now, because my knowledge of those tomes is that I read one when I was in fifth grade, and I didn’t really dig it at age 12. Thirty years later? It may be a whole new game.
This is one riddle onto another onto another. You really have no idea how this is going to play out. And even at the end? You still have questions. I have a ton! I’m also wondering what happened to some of the supporting characters in the book, but I’m sure they are going to pop back up in the next installment. This supernatural tilt-a-whirl starts out with two cops- Daniel Carter and Charlie Hammond, his partner, going to bust into a house where a serial killer named “The Child Catcher” is at, presumably with his next victim. Carter and Hammond get the boy out safely, and find the perp, Sudyam, and shoot him. As he sits dying, Carter has time to observe a wall with a detailed map of notes that Sudyam has kept track of his victims, practices, etc. (The cops later call it “The Psycho Wall”). He tries to extract information from the perp, but leaves the room to check on something, and heads back into the room in time to see Hammond shoot himself. Why did his partner commit suicide, when he was a veteran? Did the dying killer say something to him? This, friends, is where the true questions begin. Not even 20 pages in. And they keep coming, so if you want a book that solves itself quickly, forget it. This is like Foucault’s pendulum.. the answer, you feel, is closer and closer..but it’s really further and further away. Carter tries to keep on with his career as a cop, but he feels unsettled in major ways and quits the force and opens his own private investigation agency. One day, a man named Weston, a higher class attorney, enters the practice and informs Carter that a man has left him a bookstore in nearby Providence, in his will. Providence is a town that leaves Carter in a state of dislike, and he really doesn’t want to go, but he needs to see what this is about. Once there, he meets Lovecraft, a bright young lady who has been running the bookstore for 7 years while the original owner just up and disappeared, never to be seen again. There’s an uneasy peaceable connection between the two, up until Rothwell, a smarmy rich guy who’s running for public office, shows up to claim his girlfriend and he offers to buy the bookstore out from Carter, to give to his girlfriend (Lovecraft’s first name is Emily, Carter’s is Dan. For the sake of remaining true to the title, I was going by the last names in my review). No matter Carter’s misgivings, his dislike of Rothwell make it clear that he’s going to stay here and keep a share in the bookstore; he gives Lovecraft the other half, and they’re officially partners. Emily Lovecraft isn’t only weary of his involvement and gift, but she’s kind of sick of being asked over and over again by eager bookophiles about her connection to the late, great H.P. Lovecraft (she’s the last descendant). This- as well as Carter’s being descended from the great Randolph Carter- play a part in what unravels in the book. Things are downright weird in the town, in the bookstore when it’s closed, and then people start dying in strange ways that neither science nor the supernatural universe can merely explain away. Bone chilling in ways I can’t say without giving more away. A man named Colt is quickly pinned as the main suspect in these killings, and Carter’s investigation leads him to a creepy inlet named Waites’ Landing, where the people dwelling there are all of a “family” that may be human, or may not be human. But creepy as hell. Carter finds Colt’s home and breaks in and starts to die the way the others have, except he wakes up, still alive, and with no memory of what the hell happened. He goes back and levels with Lovecraft, who surprises him with her knowledge of things going on, and they quickly realize that all is not well when Rothwell, her boyfriend, tries to rape her and appears to have been mentally rendered nuttier than a fruitcake with a three year old expiration date… Colt’s gotten to him as well. Carter, Lovecraft, and a detective friend of theirs head there to put a stop to whatever the hell is going on, and get a hell of a lot more than they bargained for. A LOT MORE. And so does the reader! I really could not figure out heads or tails where Howard was heading next with the narrative, and that’s why this book is so damned effective! I was creeped out by a lot of parts, puzzled by others, laughing at the humor that Carter and Lovelace managed to bring into the very scary situation, and horrified at some of the aspects that would make horror movie fanatics proud. It is all over the place, this book- and I LOVED IT. I cannot wait to read the next one in the series. There isn’t anything that I hated about this book. It challenges the reader’s perceptions of time, memory, what is real and what is fiction, and what can be explained and the dimensions of the human spirit in the face of such a spellbinding stunner. Questions abound and not one moment of lag in this book at all. I was pretty fucking fascinated all the way until the end. So will you.