The Shadow Over Innsmouth

H.P. Lovecraft

Book cover

Surprisingly for someone as nerdy as me, this was my first experience reading Lovecraft (after a recommendation from a friend.) I am not usually into horror, but I do like more suspense/psychological approaches to the genre (as opposed to violent/gross-out approaches). Lovecraft definitely fits that bill.

The building of interest and tension in this story is almost perfect. It reminded me in a lot of ways of The Haunting of Hill-House. We begin with the narrator getting some vague clues about this creepy place while he’s still in another town, then traveling there, gradually learning more, then a sharp heightening of tension when he is forced to stay there overnight, leading to a very thrilling room invasion/chase scene. I found it interesting that most of the building of creepy detail came from supporting characters just giving exposition, and yet it worked really well–I guess largely because of the sketchiness of the details and the questionable reliability of some of the sources. My only complaint is that the chase scene gets drawn out a little too long after the tension has already fallen from its peak, and relatedly, there is a fairly long “falling action” sequence after the chase scene is over. I think a quicker wrap-up would have improved the pacing. Finally, I thought it was an interesting choice to have the story told in first-person past tense by the protagonist, so that there was no real question from the beginning that he would escape Innsmouth basically safe. I think this maybe makes the story more interesting by directing your attention toward more subtle questions around what might happen.

The final twist is also very well-executed. Lovecraft places several clues early in the story that are easy to connect to the twist after the fact, but did not telegraph it too obviously (at least for me). It’s a good job of walking the fine line between too obvious and too out-of-the-blue.

Oh, and I also learned a good vocabulary word from this story: “batrachian,” meaning “froglike.”

I’m not immediately looking to read more Lovecraft, but I will definitely plan to read some more when Halloween comes around!

My Goodreads rating: 4 stars