Mamatas’s mystery novel takes place amid a convention of fans and authors inspired by H.P. Lovecraft, reminding this reader pleasantly of Sharyn McCrumb’s 1988 murder-at-an-SF-convention mystery BIMBOS OF THE DEATH SUN. (Mamatas seems well aware of the comparison, going so far as to reference McCrumb’s novel with a similar fictional book title within the narrative.) The characters are colorful and interesting, the murder is suitably grotesque, and the events in and around the convention are outlandish enough to keep your attention. Mamatas knows the subject matter inside and out, and his talent for pacing and detail continues to impress.
However, there’s a lot of inside baseball here, and if you’re not familiar with Lovecraft or convention culture this novel might not be for you. It is claustrophobic and air-tight in its humor and observations, and casual mystery readers may find themselves feeling like the one person at a party who doesn’t understand the joke everyone else is laughing at. While the prose is good and the novel is a fast, enjoyable read, its reliance on in-jokes and its willingness to sacrifice emotional involvement in favor of archness prevents it from being as memorable, to this reader at least, as it ought to be.