MuseMuse by James Renner
My rating: 4/5 cats
One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star


blah blah well-worn review-intro boilerplate about how i don’t like lovecraft &yadda, which explanation i seem to have had to whip out a LOT in the past year or so, as lovecraft and lovecraftian themes have been popping up more and more in the books of my ‘can’t miss’ authors (Mira Grant, Paul Tremblay, Nick Cutter, Edgar Cantero, etc), and while i would ordinarily, automatically, love anything these people write, my lovecraft allergy means that the best i can do, in these situations, is forgive them their slips into ‘not for me’ territory. which is very benevolent of me, indeed.

so, this. i love James Renner, but i got this ARC about a week after reading In the Shadow of Spindrift House, so my beloved-author-forgiveness reserves were running low, and i wasn’t too keen on diving right back into the dreadful, tentacle-infested waters of lovecraft’s legacy, so i admit – i was apprehensive; braced for dismay.

but thank a million elder gods, renner approached this lovecraft business a little differently. he doesn’t mimic lovecraft’s “ooOOOooo scary things are certainly afoot here, readers! things simply too scary to describe!! soooo ineffable. fill in the blanks yourself but make sure it’s sooooo spooooky, okay? imma go write something super-racist now k thx bye.”

instead, he uses lovecraft (and poe) as anchoring elements – as ‘writers who existed’ instead of ‘writers whose style i will try on for a bit here,’ and he doesn’t make you do any of the BYOS* work of creating atmosphere or supplying the horror elements which is, after all, the ‘you had one job’ raison d’être of the horror writer. he also, i believe, never once uses the words “ineffable” or “ichor.”

renner’s spin on the lovecraft-go-round is a dark-ass supernatural detective thriller speculating about the source of inspiration for two of america’s gloomiest, murkiest writers; a narrative shaped as the found, transcribed, audio confession/will/warning of michael hadley — a private investigator in the great state of maine. (hi, daddy!)

and o’, it is a bloody, and clever and slick-noir journey through a criminal underbelly of east coast gangsters and cultists and amorous boy scout leaders and ambitious teenage novelists and it is creepy and rewarding and HIGHLY EFFABLE. like, ‘we are all effed-able.’

finally, a lovecraft i could love.


*bring your own spooooooooky


okay, so this novella is “lovecraftian” in the same way that a badass horror/detective play that used lovecraft as a table in some of its acts would be considered “lovecraftian.”

ain’t nothing ineffable here.

review to come!


i guess a new law was passed that said every book i pick up from now on must be lovecraft-related. REPEAL, PLEASE!


i got an arc, but if YOU want a fancy copy with HOT FOIL STAMPING*, you can preorder it here:

only 750 copies will be made, so get your ass over there!!

* i do not know what hot foil stamping is, but it sounds sexy.

View all my reviews

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Amazon Disclaimer is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon properties including but not limited to,, or,,, or


this feels gauche, but when i announced i was starting a blog, everyone assured me this is a thing that is done. i’m not on facebook, i’ve never had a cellphone or listened to a podcast; so many common experiences of modern life are foreign to me, but i’m certainly struggling financially, so if this is how the world works now, i’d be foolish to pass it up. any support will be received with equal parts gratitude and bewilderment.

To Top