Series: CARTER & LOVECRAFT
Publisher and Titles: Thomas Dunn Books, an imprint of St. Martin's Press
Carter & Lovecraft (10/2015)
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.
Howard has cast Emily as an African American woman, perhaps in a sly nod to long-standing charges of racism against H.P. Lovecraft. Emily has worked in her Uncle Alfred's bookstore for many years, but for the past seven years, Alfred has been missing. Now that he has been declared dead, she finds that she won't be inheriting the shop, but that a stranger will be the new owner. Emily's boyfriend, Ken (a wealthy aspiring politician), offers to buy the store from Dan so that he can gift it to Emily, but Dan decides instead to make Emily a partner.
At this point, Dan plans on staying mostly in New York, running his PI business, but almost as soon as he returns, he gets a call from a Providence college professor asking for his help. By the time he finds the professor, the man is dead, seemingly drowned in his car with no water in sight. Dan feels compelled to investigate the case after he learns that the professor was already dead when he called Dan and because the police and the coroner slough off the death as accidental.
When Dan begins to investigate, he discovers that the professor had an altercation with William Colt, a student intensely disliked by nearly everyone who interacts with him. As the investigation continues, Dan has some very weird, otherworldly dreams and several incidences in which his perception of reality suddenly slips, leaving him dizzy, nauseous, and totally confused as to what is going on. By this time, Dan is staying in the apartment over the bookstore, so he has an opportunity to discuss these strange events with Emily, who applies her knowledge of Lovecraftian lore to Dan's bizarre experiences.
Lovecraft purists may not like the fact that Emily has access to several of Lovecraft's unpublished manuscripts that are unknown to anyone but the family, but Howard weaves their contents seamlessly into the plot. After Emily studies Dan's family tree, she has an "aha" moment (which I will not reveal here) and begins to share the contents of those manuscripts with him. Although we don't get as much exposure to Emily as we do to Dan, she does have her moments. When she and Dan are getting ready for the big finale, their Providence policeman friend asks her if she can handle a gun. Emily tilts her head back, looks down her nose at him, and retorts, "I trained as a librarian, and I run a bookstore. F***ing right I can use a gun."
The charm of this novel lies in the two lead characters, both of whom are likable, intelligent people who are open to the existence of otherworldly creatures and events. After Dan and Emily link forces with their Providence policeman ally, the three of them go off to a spooky spit of coastal land called Waite's Bill, which has served for centuries as the home of a very weird family. When Dan visits Waite's Bill for the first time, he muses that "the last thing [he] had expected in the city was a place that felt like a failed Deliverance theme park." Suspense builds as Howard gradually reveals that the Waites are one of Lovecraft's pseudo-human families and that they have a major stake in Colt's attempts to manipulate a perceptual portal—a "Twist"—that lies within their lands.