BOOK REVIEW: Rites of Azathoth
– By Dave Dubrow
Frank Cavallo’s Rites of Azathoth is a fun read, if slow-moving; much of the novel is taken up with description, law enforcement procedure, and dialogue, so if those elements are your cup of tea, you’ll find a lot to like. Devotees of the Cthulhu Mythos won’t need to be told that the novel centers around Lovecraftian themes; all you need is a title with the name Azathoth in it to get our misshapen hearts pumping. Overall, Cavallo does a fine job of updating Lovecraft’s horrors, making them relevant to our 21st century sensibilities.
There are plots within plots in Rites of Azathoth, some of them reaching to the highest levels of both the government and the corporate spheres. It’s protagonist Diana Mancuso’s unenviable job to get to the heart of it all, and solve a case that doesn’t just hint at the supernatural, but dives headlong into it. Mancuso’s very much an anti-hero: reluctant to get involved, frequently breaks the rules, and not above torture to get the information she needs. She’s not likable, but she’s the investigator this case needs.
Cavallo’s familiarity with legal, political, and law enforcement nomenclature provide welcome credibility to the narrative, even if his unfamiliarity with firearms presents a minor problem (Glocks don’t have safeties you can switch on and off, and handguns have magazines, not clips). The dialogue was uneven: sometimes it was snappy, at other times clumsy and overlong. Cavallo’s descriptions of the terrible goings-on and horrific creatures are disturbing, which is exactly what you want for a novel like this.
You like high intrigue, ancient rituals, disgusting villains, and mind-ripping horrors? You’ll get them all and more in Rites of Azathoth. I can’t say much more than I have for fear of giving away its appalling secrets. In a novel that’s catnip for Lovecraft fans, Frank Cavallo delivers the scares. While I didn’t care for Diana Mancuso, I do look forward to the next Cavallo novel.