The Broken Hours

Jacqueline Baker. HarperCollins Canada, $26.99 (309p) ISBN 978-1-44342-566-7

The spectral life of a horror legend is examined in this dark, tenebrous novel. In Providence, 1936, Arthor Crandle, in dire need of employment and suffering from a troubled marriage finds a job as a live-in personal assistant to an unnamed employer. His new boss communicates only through phone and letters signed with the moniker "Ech-Pi," his physical presence almost nonexistent. Crandle types his stories and correspondences from which he gleans his real name: Howard Phillips Lovecraft. Occupying an apartment in the large house is Flossie Kush, a vivacious, aspiring actress whose mysterious presence seems to enliven the gloom of the Lovecraft home. Disturbed by visions of a phantom girl, a monstrous tentacle on the shore, and an employer who seems barely human, Crandle is compelled to solve the mystery behind the "malevolence" of his new home on Sixty-Six College Street. Baker (The Horseman's Graves) writes with the conviction of a fan, adeptly evoking the shadowy melancholy of Lovecraft's world while always keeping the narrative's momentum moving. While lacking in the intensity of Lovecraft's own work, the novel creates an atmosphere of haunted New England menace that sinks subtly into the skin. Agent: Anne McDermid & Associates. (Sept.)