Welcome witches and warlocks,
Today I will be reviewing the Cthulhu themed novel I Am Providence (2016) by writer Nick Mamatas. To best describe the story, I will use my own plot summary:
“An HP Lovecraft convention turns into a murder mystery when an unpopular novelist is killed. Books bound in skin, grave robbing, and a corpse who keeps an inner monologue are just a few of the many stops along the way to the solution.”
First of all, the idea that the dead body has an internal monologue while lying in the morgue is just brilliant. He proves to be funny, interesting, and surprisingly well-rounded for a corpse. It is through these moments that we get not only some great commentary on convention life in general, but also some fleshing out on other characters in the novel. This second aspect proves especially important as we are not privy to the thoughts of the other characters within the story.
The downside to having such an intriguing narrative device employed for this one character is that the moments without his narration are not nearly as engrossing. In fact, I would make the case that our second main character read more like someone who was just playing detective rather than a fully realized person. While our secondary lead, Colleen’s, story has some neat twists and turns, it pales in comparison to the story being provided by our newly deceased lead.
I will say this; the divided narrative device is well utilized in the finale. That last chapter makes the most of the idea that the corpse cannot see anything, only hear what is happening in the morgue. This made it so that we were still able to find out who the killer was during the denouement as well as have a satisfying conclusion from a storytelling standpoint.
All in all, this novel functions like a murder mystery more than a Cthulhu mythos tale, which is actually to its credit. The interesting narrative made this a pleasant and quick read that had some great one-liners along the way. Fans of books like The Maltese Falcon (1930) or The Book Thief (2006) will probably enjoy this twisty story.
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