• Jack Wells

Book Review - Carter & Lovecraft by Jonathan L. Howard

Updated: May 9, 2018

Enjoyable modern take on the noir & monsters mashup that H.P. Lovecraft established and popularized.

I have such a soft spot for Lovecraft inspired stories, regardless of whether they take place on screen, on page, or in any other form really. From “The Thing That Should Not Be” by Metallica, to the Cthulhu themed wallpaper that haunts my desktop background, I’ve always been fascinated by H.P. Lovecraft’s godlike creations; the power they have, the madness they instill, and the few humans heroic (or foolish) enough to stand against them.

So of course I’ve had Carter & Lovecraft on my radar for a while, but so many other books kept ending up ahead of it in the queue. But I had a bit of a respite between bookclub novels recently, and I figured it was time to put this one to rest.

So what's the skinny? Well, I'm glad I made time for this little ditty. Carter & Lovecraft is a very well written excursion into Lovecraftian territory, telling its own unique tale, while feeling familiar enough in the genre to fit well. There’s enough weirdness oozing across the pages that it feels appropriately spooky, an Mr. Howard can certainly capture strange very well on page. You want bizarre supernatural occurrences? You want otherworldly powers causing mayhem in our quasi-ordered and grounded society? You want musings on our place in the cosmos? Carter & Lovecraft has you covered. And the fact that this is an ongoing series makes me rather happy, as I really enjoyed the characters in this book, and would love to spend more time in the odd & dangerous world they live in.

Like all my reviews, I will keep spoilers to an absolute minimum. If it’s not mentioned in the book synopsis, then I’ll do my level best to not mention it here.

We get two main protagonists in this third-person novel, Private Investigator Daniel Carter and bookseller Emily Lovecraft. Of the two, Daniel Carter gets the lion’s share of page time, as the vast majority of the action is seen through his eyes. Eyes, I might add, that are starting to see some seriously weird and unexplainable shit! What makes Carter such an enjoyable protagonist is his inner workings and though processes. As an ex-cop, he’s seen the depraved and cruel things that humans do to each other, and he’s pretty well grounded as a result. But his reactions to the events going on in the book are generally believable and oftentimes amusing. His world-weariness (a necessity in a Private Investigator) is endearing, his protectiveness of Emily Lovecraft is sweet and believable, and his dogged determination is admirable. He thinks and behaves like an ex-cop would think and behave, and I found myself liking him immediately.

Opposite Carter is Emily Lovecraft, a no kidding descendant of the famous writer himself, and a fully capable character herself. While she may not get nearly the page time that Carter does, she leaves a definite impression. She’s got some serious moxie, and I always wanted to spend more time with her as a POV character. She is both sarcastic AND intelligent, which is a deadly combination. Some writers struggle when writing a character like Emily, but Mr. Howard is more than up to the task. While the events taking place in the book are utterly alien to Carter, Emily is a bit more on the up & up, so while she’s not ever experienced them herself, she is rather aware of what is taking place (and why).

Ultimately, these two characters together are greater than the sum of their parts. Their meeting, interplay, and growing affection for each other is enjoyable, expertly written, and never feels forced or tacked on. The fact that they occasionally trade banter in movie quotes and other pop-culture references made my inner nerd smile. This is how my friends and I talk, so to have characters on page talking in the same vein just made me all sorts of happy.

On the villain side, we have a few (well, one main villain, and a few periphery ne’er-do-wells), and they are generally devious and dangerous enough to give our heroes trouble. Some of the villains that are met later on in the story are sure to be a larger threat as the series progresses. The main villain of the tale is…interesting. I don’t want to go into spoiler territory, so I’ll try to be vague, but his motivations for some of the horrible things he does, when they are revealed, are a little anti-climactic, if not exactly unbelievable. He was effective enough, and dangerous enough, but I felt let down by him in the end.

There are a few supporting characters, including a cop that Carter interacts with for mutual benefit, but they aren’t really super defined, as this is mostly Carter & Lovecraft’s show. They are either there to be helpful to the heroes, or fodder for the villains, much as they should be in a tale such as this.

The gripes I had against the novel are few & far between, as it's largely a solid and well-written tale. There were of couple of editing goofs, but those can be overlooked. The biggest issue I had was that, once Carter & Lovecraft start to really realize what is going down, and decide to do something about it, the book kinda chugs for a bit. I get that their options are limited, as they can't call The Ghostbusters or take it to the Feds, but their eventual course of action seems a little...half-assed. It's like the book was all polished & plotted until that moment, and then maybe Mr. Howard had a hard time figuring out how to move forward. Once the action picks up again, the book finds its footing again, but it did get a little wobbly there for a bit.

And yeah, to say anything more would be to take away some of the surprise of the story, and I’m not down for that. If you enjoy stories in the Lovecraft vein, or are looking for something a little dark, a little spooky, and a little weird, you should check this one out.

3 out of 5 solid & slightly insane stars!

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