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GHOULS OF THE MISKATONIC by GRAHAM MCNEILL
“Fear... The deserted streets, the boarded up stores and the people crossing the street to avoid you: that was Boston at the height of the epidemic. And that was how Arkham felt right now. Like a city that people wanted to abandon, but were too afraid or too poor to leave.”
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Over the years, I've tended to steer clear of media tie-in novels that are based off other entertainment platforms (aside from Star Wars novels). They tend to have a stigma surrounding them that they are just in it for a quick buck with no real effort put into the actual storytelling or characters.
In this case though, I'm a big fan of not only HP Lovecraft in general, but also of the Arkham Horror universe created by Fantasy Flight Games. I play Arkham Horror related board games such as Mansion of Madness, and am familiar with the lore and characters involved with the games. Therefore, I chose to take a chance of these books (it also helped that I got a whole bunch of them off a clearance sale at a gaming store). So here we go.
The first book in the Dark Waters trilogy, Ghouls of the Miskatonic, like most Lovecraftian goodness, takes place during the roaring 20s. Arkham has had a string of gruesome murders, and when a pair of university girls go missing, the hunt for a killer begins.
We are introduced to a bunch of Arkham Horror characters, notably Oliver Grayson, Gabriel Stone, Amanda Sharpe, Rita Young, Rex Murphy, Finn Edwards, and others. This is where my main problem with the book begins. Though I'm a fan of said characters, there are just so many of them in this story it feels kind of crowded. They were definitely all used as fan service, and I really feel it could have done a tighter job by keeping that cast list a bit smaller. There are many more characters in the mythos though, so i'm sure that the books moving forward will only have more and more at any given time. Not sure if I like that.
Some people complain about this installment regarding the priest in the red robes, and just what Elder God of fire is involved. Keep in mind this is the first of a trilogy, so I'm sure those questions are addressed later on.
I enjoyed how much it played out as a detective story though, even though most of the investigating was done by a university professor instead of the actual Pinkerton agent in the story, but that's ok. I hope it continues this vibe, as that's totally the feel of good Lovecraftian work.
Another minor issue I found was the ignoring of certain societal elements that would have been in effect during New England of the 1920s. There are a few plot points that occur that would work fine in today's day, but not so much back then. It was like a 1920 city was simply written as though it was in today's standards, and that pulled me out of the story a bit. Perhaps they get a reign in on those kinds of things in the next books?
Overall it's an OK story, entertaining enough, but really only capable of carrying itself via the fact it's set in a pre-built universe that fans of the games can appreciate more.
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